When you take a sip of your cabernet sauvignon, you’re experiencing thousands of years of history. This fact may sound dramatic, but it’s true!
What is it about this drink that has captured so many people's imaginations and taste buds? The history of wine embodies several periods of human history, from ancient dynasties to modern-day wineries. Some drinkers may cite the delectable tastes, while others prefer the soft buzz. Yet more people are fascinated with the art of cultivation, brewing, and fermentation.
Want to boost your wine knowledge for your next Zoom get-together? Below is a round-up of the history of wine from the beginning to the modern age. By the time you’re done, you’ll be salivating for another glass.
How Winemaking First Began
This may come as a shock, but the advanced method of creating wine today wasn’t always the standard. Some forms of wine were created by complete accident.
Let’s start as far back as we can possibly go. Historians today are a little torn on the exact date wine was introduced as a staple drink for humanity, but there’s a general consensus. China is one of the world’s oldest countries and is believed to have first produced wine around 7,000 B.C. While ancient Egyptian and Iranian societies created wine-like drinks, there are debates about how similar they are in style.
Armenia has the distinction of boasting the world’s oldest known winery, though the oldest winery still in operation is in Germany. This winery is Staffelter Hof and is located in the Kröv in the Mosel Valley. These experienced winemakers focus on white wines, particularly Riesling.
Related: How to Drink Wine Properly (Steps & Tips Included)
The Fascinating Accident of Champagne
Remember we said some wines were created by complete chance? This fun fact is how the tasty, bubbly champagne was first born.
Before we dive into wine history, let’s take a look at one of the most interesting mishaps of the past few hundred years. Champagne is one of the best known wines of France, famed for its fizzy texture and crisp flavor notes. This drink is often saved for special occasions and tends to fetch higher prices due to its unique origins. If the wine doesn’t actually come from France, it’s not true champagne!
Champagne was accidentally created in the 1800’s due to experimentation with fermenting and storage. This drink was nicknamed the ‘devil’s wine’ due to how unpredictably it could pop off corks or shatter bottles. While all wine needs to go through fermentation to become an alcoholic beverage, champagne goes through two fermentation methods.
What’s the Difference Between Old World Wine and New World Wine?
From the rolling hills of France to the sunny beaches of Italy, Old World wine is the standard in the wine world. It has an older history than new world wine, but the brewing methods are also a little different.
Old World wine is a classification for the well-known regions with a very long history of producing the drink. These regions include (but aren’t limited to):
New World wine is a simple designation that includes more modern origins. Newer wine regions include (but aren’t limited to):
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- United States (particularly Oregon, California, and Washington)
Did you know there’s a third option in the wine region category? This third option is the Ancient World wine, which refers to the oldest winemaking societies:
Related: Buying a Case of Wine [Ultimate Buyer’s Guide]
We believe wine is an experience everyone should enjoy. We provide a variety of stemware, wineware, and accessories to make every drink delicious.
Breaking Down the Winemaking Timeline
How has wine evolved over the years? Do we still use old-fashioned methods with modern technology?
We’re going to walk through the different areas of human history and summarize how wine evolved as both a drink and an art form.
Starting at 7,000 B.C. Where Wine Began
As we stated above, wine is one of the oldest staples of mankind. This drink existed in ancient monarchies and developing societies, favored for all kinds of purposes. The term B.C. is a timestamp used to denote the birth of Christ in Christianity.
The Henan Province of China is the current location of the oldest known winemaking society. Since technology was still underdeveloped, winemaking techniques weren’t nearly as refined as they are today. Old Chinese wine was crafted with a blend of wild grapes, rice, and honey. These sugary fruits would slowly, but surely ferment inside clay pots.
Other fruits such as plums and lychee would sometimes be used to craft wine. Unsurprisingly, China is the sixth leading consumer of wine products in the modern market.
Moving to 6,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C.
Fermenting drinks is a trend that caught on quickly among different human societies. Technology improved gradually during this period, introducing winemaking materials such as grape presses and different fermentation jars.
Historians have found fascinating evidence that wine was used for a variety of purposes. Armenian societies used wine for grieving and burial ceremonies, while Chinese cultures often saved wine for royal processions. Many Chinese kingdoms, such as Chang’an, planted vineyards in protected areas.
Evolving Through 1,200 B.C. to 500 B.C.
If you know anything about the ancient Egyptians, it’s that they were a staggeringly advanced society. The more historians find out about them, the less they learn!
Ancient Egyptian society is famous for its elaborate rituals around birth, death, and the environment. Through painstaking translation and study, historians discovered that the Egyptians of old believed wine to have special powers. There is speculation that some of this superstition came from the similarity of red wine to blood.
Egyptian burial sites are filled with different objects for the deceased to take to the afterlife. These objects ranged from books to jewelry to, you guessed it…wine.
Moving to 200 BC to 100 BC
The ancient Greeks were huge fans of wine. They drank it at parties, family gatherings, and during philosophical discussions.
Are you familiar with Greek mythology? You likely already know about Dionysus, the god of wine. He represented festivities, joy, and fertility, frequently portrayed in Greek theater. There were even cults crafted in his image! While you don’t have to go that far to enjoy a good cup of wine, this history says something about the power of this drink.
Transitioning from AD 300 to the 1400s
We’re starting to get closer to the modern-day. Where B.C. means Before Christ, AD means Anno Dimini. This term is a reference after the birth of Christ.
Wine continued going strong in its association with religion and ceremonies during this period. Alongside Christianity, Catholic societies associated red wine with the blood of Christ. These wines were (and sometimes are) considered an indispensable part of practicing faith.
Wine may be a delicious drink, but its history isn’t always noble. The gradual transition to the 1400s would see winemaking methods introduced to other continents through colonization. Spain and Portugal colonized Latin America, planting wine varietals and carving out new origins through brutal force.
Developing Modernity in the 1600s to the 1800s
We explored how the United States has several New World wine regions of note. These locations first got their start with the aid of missionaries, particularly in California.
San Diego holds the distinction of the oldest vineyard in the state, with Sonoma following close behind. To this day, Sonoma is among the best-known American wine regions. This historic city regularly produces high-quality red and white wines, though it’s best known for its pinot noir and zinfandel production.
Around the 1830’s, a well-known viticulturist by the name of James Busby introduced European grape varieties to Australia. He would later transition to New Zealand, helping both of these countries gain a foothold in the world of wine. Believe it or not, many of today’s Australian and New Zealand vineyards descended from the same ones he planted centuries ago!
Moving From the 1900’s to the Modern Day
The modern day wine scene is undergoing a significant change the world over. New demographics are moving to the wine world, while older demographics are starting to shift away.
Today’s biggest wine consumers are the United States, France, China, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The most popular wine varietals in the United States are pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, famed for their rich, balanced flavor notes. That said, rosé and riesling are starting to sell more often as traditional wine attitudes shift.
Sparkling wines are emerging as a big favorite among younger demographics for their more casual appeal. There’s also an ongoing push in the mainstream wine industry for wine spritzers, which combine the bubbly appeal of sparkling wine with a lower price point.
How Modern Wine Drinkers Enjoy Wine
Do you use wine for ritualistic purposes under the full moon? While this hobby isn’t exactly popular nowadays, modern day wine drinkers still have go-to methods for enjoying the craft.
Wine glasses, decanters, and corkscrews are common equipment for wine enthusiasts today. It’s common to enjoy a charcuterie filled with assorted cheeses, sausages, nuts, chocolates, and crackers to bring out different notes in the wine. For those that prefer a casual approach to winedrinking, canned spritzers are becoming very popular.
Taking good care of your wine means storing your bottles in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight. Investing in a wine stopper will keep your wine fresh for a few days after opening so you can enjoy it throughout the week! More acidic wines keep fresher longer, such as petite syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
We highly recommend you experiment with different wine varietals, fermentation methods, and styles. If you have a sweet tooth, consider pinot grigio, riesling, or rosé. If you like rich and fruity flavors, seek out pinot noir or merlot. If your palate favors smoky and bitter, you’ll love malbec or tempranillo.
The worldwide fascination with wine will only grow from here. Every time you pour yourself a glass, you’re sipping history, art, and culture.
Wine first got its start as fermented fruit, rice, and honey in ancient Chinese societies. Over time, Armenia and Greece would add their own spins on winemaking recipes. Wine has historical associations with burial rituals, religious ceremonies, and royal processions. Red wine is the most popular intentional drink, but famous wine varieties such as Champagne were created entirely by accident.
New World wine origins were introduced in the 1800’s and 1900’s, paving the way for famous Australian, New Zealand, and American wines. Today’s wine industry is facing a huge cultural and demographic adjustment period. Though there is still demand for old-fashioned winemaking techniques, Sparkling wines and spritzers are top dogs..
Learning about wine is a lifelong journey. Even the most experienced drinkers are learning something new every day! As long as you’re enjoying yourself, you’re doing it right.
Are you eager to dip into the wide world of wine? Contact us today to enjoy elegant stemware, barware, and accessories to get the most out of your journey.