The history of wine making probably begins with the history of civilization itself. The earliest known wine production may have been in the region of Iran as long ago as 6000 BC, and there is evidence of domestication of the vine in the Near East from around 3000 BC. Certainly there was wine made in the times of the expansion of the Greek empire, some thousand years before Christ. It appears that wine making spread to Italy, North Africa, and France.
Wine was revered by the Romans who may have been the first to seriously age wine in barrels rather than relying on earthenware amphoras like the Greeks. It seems likely that the Romans introduced the vine to Gaul, the region which is now France.
All the early developments in the history of wine making were in river valleys, the natural lines of communication which the Romans cleared of forest and cultivated. They found that vineyards had a settling and civilizing effect on the population, and boats were ideal for transporting wine which was heavy. The river water was also a source of irrigation for the grape vines.
Following the Roman Empire's demise the dark ages are not well chronicled, but when civilization became re-established during the middle-ages, it was the church that nurtured the vine and had the influence to maintain vineyards as wine took on religious significance.
Wine became an established part of upper class society, and fashions saw the rise and fall of different styles of wine. The history of wine making took a turn late in the 17th century. It was discovered that wine in a bottle with a tight-fitting cork, lasted much longer than wine in a barrel, once the barrel had been breached. The discovery of the cork for sealing bottles and preventing air entering, other than in minute quantities, led to the practice of keeping wines for longer and longer periods. It became apparent that some wines even improved by being stored in this manner.
The wine trade expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries, to the point where some countries economies depended largely upon it. Unfortunately it was about this time when the disease phylloxera took hold, and vast numbers of European vineyards were devastated, taking many years to recover. Many indigenous varieties of grape vine were lost, and only a few types survived, but it led to more efficient use of land and better growing practices to improve production.
Grapes and wheat were first brought to South America by the Spanish conquerors in order to provide for the needs of the Catholic Church. Since then the grape vine has spread to various parts of the Americas, and, as more have been imported there has developed a mix of Old World and New World vines.
Through the 18th century England and France were often on unfriendly terms and at war. This meant that England had to turn to other sources for wine, such as Portugal, Holland, and South Africa. By the early 19th century England had become used to drinking port from Portugal as its favored wine of the time. The fact that pure drinking water was not readily available had made drinking wine commonplace for a long time.
Also in the 19th century, champagne found favor as the French discovered ways of removing sediment from it, and making production more automated and more affordable.
The industrial revolution brought changes to wine making allowing more reliable production of quality wines. It became possible to ferment wines in large metal vats under closely controlled temperature conditions.
The history of wine making in the last 90 years have seen a scientific approach to wine making develop, making the final result more reliable. Refrigeration has allowed controlled temperature fermentation of wines in hot climates producing a better product. Harvesting machines have made gathering the grapes more efficient, and allowed vineyards to harvest even at night if it suited them because of temperature or weather considerations.
Modern technology has allowed much more control than ever over the production of wine, making it possible to achieve reliable production to a decent standard. It is to be hoped that this does not lead to the temptation to produce more quantities of wine at the expense of individual character and flavor.
Read more about Wines of the World and then make your very own (we will suggest which one)!
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