The word “wine” conjures up a world rich in history, tradition, culture and sentiment. It is a drink which has “accompanied” man for centuries, since the advent of the first agricultural civilizations.
A drop of History
Winemaking from grapes is a natural process. Unlike fermentation for other fruit wines, grape wine sometimes requires the addition of sugar. In fact from the second millennium B.C. to not so long ago, there haven’t been any big changes in cultivation and wine making. Today in Italy we still call some grape farming methods “Greek” or “Etrurian”.
Most historians, archaeologists, linguists and botanists agree that wine was “invented” somewhere south of Caucasus and north of what we now call Iraq. Old historians tell us about wine transports along Euphrates River, from Armenia to the rich city of Babylon.
For the Sumerians, vine and wine were symbols of immortality. Gilgamesh (a character from Sumerian mythology) has an important encounter with Siduri:
“Beside the sea she lives,
the woman of the vine, the maker of wine;
Siduri sits in the garden at the edge of the sea,
with the golden bowl and the golden vats that the gods gave her.”
In the Biblical Book of Genesis, after the Great Flood, Noah begins anew by planting a vineyard and making wine. He is credited as being the first to plant a vineyard.
In the West, the history of wine is linked to Greece. In fact, wine came probably to Europe with the spread of the Greek civilization a bit less than 3,000 years ago. Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad both contain excellent and detailed descriptions of wine.
The Greeks also learned to add herbs and spices to mask spoilage. Wine was consumed in Greece at breakfast or at symposia. The Greeks from Sicily (so called Sikeliotes) invented an ability game, the Kottabos that was played during symposia.
Ancient Greek religion had a god of wine, whose name was Dionysus. In ancient Rome, the same god had the early name of Bacchus, then changed into Liber.
So wine arrived in Italy, called Enotria, land of wine, by the Greeks, and from here it reached every corner of Europe. So wine making became so common that a Roman emperor, Domitian, in 92 A.D. enacted a decree that orders to extirpate 50 % of vineyards outside Italy and the prohibition to plant new ones in Italy. As we can see European Community did not invent anything really new!
Today wine is a drink whose consumption is increasing day by day (world wide production is about 26 million tonnes), reaching new followers outside Europe, is a product with a relevant economical interest and a sector where different people are working, such as farmers, agronomists, winemakers, architects, journalists, organizers of fairs and contests and, at the same time, is a social and cultural topic.
One could reasonably conclude that Wine is Culture.