Why Was Wine Invented and Who Discovered It?
Perhaps the next time you sip on your favorite Chardonnay, or perhaps an Italian Red, ask yourself the question, “Why was wine invented and who discovered it?”
Wine, a beverage that has seemingly withstood the test of time, has evolved over thousands of years to become a part of the everyday culture of people from all corners of the Earth and walks of life. Today wine comes in more styles and vintages than one can possibly imagine.
This historically significant beverage has a rich history which has been subjected to much interpretation and debate. Does anybody truly know where wine really originated? Can anyone pinpoint who the discoverer of wine really was?
Who Invented Wine?
In today’s world, people regularly associate areas such as California in the United States, France, Italy, Spain, and New Zealand with being the areas that are responsible for the production of the best and most popular wines.
It may come as a surprise to you that the earliest documented evidence of the existence of wine was discovered by archaeologists in the areas of Greece, China, Georgia and Iran. These locations are known to have had vast areas of wild grapes growing at least as far back as nine thousand years ago, and most likely much earlier than that, and it is in these areas that the “invention of wine” most likely occurred.
To say that wine was invented is a misnomer, as it was in all likelihood actually discovered unintentionally.
Many historians have hypothesized that the earliest humans, who at that time were much more nomadic in nature, would gather berries and other fruits, including wild grapes. When these gathered fruits failed to be consumed within a few days’ time, the process of fermentation would set in on the remaining fruits, and it would have been the residual juice from these berries and grapes that became the earliest beginnings of what we now call wine, albeit a version with a very low alcohol content and one that would be unrecognizable to the wines of today.
It would appear then that the earliest of humans did not actually intend to “invent” wine, but they stumbled upon it as the natural process of fermentation took place. So now that our ancestors from thousands of years ago first discovered wine, how did wine evolve into what we know it to be today?
The Evolution of Wine - A Brief History
As centuries passed from this first discovery of wine, and as humans gradually transitioned away from their nomadic lifestyle, they began to live a lifestyle that resembles one that is more similar to the style of life that we live today.
Our predecessors established roots and began to live in more permanent communities, practices that we take for granted today, such as farming, agriculture, animal domestication, and winemaking developed and became much more prevalent over time, and this eventually led to the development of wine production.
Historians and archaeologists, for the most part, agree that the first evidence of the actual purposeful production of wine occurred in the area of Armenia around the year 4100 BC, where archaeologists discovered what may be the world’s earliest winery in the Areni-1 cave, as that site contained an actual wine press, fermentation vats, jars, cups, grape seeds and grape vines. While wine may have been produced in other areas prior to 4100 BC, this cave gives the earliest actual proof of wine production.
Wine Spreads Throughout Europe
In the centuries that followed, wine production spread to other areas of the Middle East and Europe. Wine making next emerged in Europe as the expansion of the Roman Empire throughout the Mediterranean occurred.
It is at this time that many of the popular wine producing regions that still exist today were originally established. It is in these areas that the first barrels for storing and shipping wine emerged and as the process for making wine became more and more refined, its popularity increased.
The history of the evolution of wine continued as centuries passed, and wine making made its way into Great Britain, Germany, Spain and France. At this point in history, wine had become an integral part of peoples’ daily diets, most likely due to the fact that the drinking water was still very unsafe for human consumption.
It was much safer to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner than it was to drink a glass of water. Just imagine if we could say that now!
Also aiding in its growth in popularity were the numerous church monasteries found across Europe, which began to grow some of the best vineyards in Europe. The Benedictine Monks grew vineyards in various regions of France and Germany, and by this time, most people in Europe were drinking wine with every meal. It is this type of wine these wine production methods that have led themselves to what wine has become today, as we know it.
Wine has played a major role in the religious narratives and celebrations for the thousands of years since its first discovery. Wine has been an integral part of both Judaism and Christianity throughout recorded their history.
Examples of the importance and reverence of wine can be found in the Kiddush, which is a Jewish blessing that is recited over wine to sanctify the Shabbat, and on Passover during the Seder, it is the obligation of adults to drink four cups of wine. In Christianity, wine is used in the sacred rite called the Eucharist, which reflects the Biblical account in the Gospel of Luke of the Last Supper of Jesus. In the Eucharist, wine is believed by Christians to be transformed into the blood of Jesus Christ.
The industrial revolution and modern winemaking techniques have had a major impact on the way wine is produced. Wooden barrels have gradually been replaced by steel casks, considered more hygienic, and the entire grape to wine process became more industrialized.
Discoveries in the field of chemistry and biology broght new understandings on the way yeasts work and have led to the development of artificial yeasts, stabilizers, clarifiers, and other 'ingredients' intended to make wine taste better.
Nonetheless, some wineries, especially in the Old World, have maintained the traditional production processes in an attempt to make noble varieties.
It's hard to say whether or not industrialization was beneficial to winemaking. Fact is that most expensive wines are still produced according to the traditional methods developed by the monks. Yes, wine is easier to produce on a large-scale level, but is it really worth it in terms of taste?
While historians and archaeologists have their differing ideas and beliefs about the true origination and the discovery of wine, the fact remains that wine was discovered many centuries prior to the evolution of written history, so nobody will never truly know who the first “inventor” of wine actually was. For those of you who enjoy a nice glass of wine, be thankful that someone did “invent” it.