History of winemaking

Wine accompanies a man from time immemorial. The joy of the meeting, the sadness of parting, the triumph of victory, the bitterness of defeat – all significant moments of a person’s life are marked with wine. Wine was known for several thousand years before our era. It is repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament, praised by the great Homer (the 8th century BC). Ancient healer and philosopher Hippocrates wrote: “The wine is miraculously adapted for man, it is assigned to both the healthy and the sick, in proper time and in proper quantity”. “In vino veritas” – “The truth is in wine” – the Romans believed.

The history of winemaking counts more than seven thousand years, and the vine – vitis vinifera – is one of the oldest cultivated plants on Earth. It’s hard to imagine that once vitis vinifera grew in the most stray manner and only wild goats were interested in it...

It is accepted that the classical culture of winemaking comes from the Mediterranean. Scientists say that 5-7 thousand years ago, in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Central Asia, people were engaged not only in military raids on their respectable neighbors, but also in viticulture.

In 1968, an American archeological expedition in Iran found a vessel made during the period from 5400-5000 BC. At the bottom of it they found the hardened remnants of wine – the oldest in the world. Wine was produced when agriculture was only in its infancy. Thus, the development of civilization and winemaking occurred simultaneously. The ancient Egyptians were the real masters of winemaking, which is confirmed by the numerous pictures that are found in the tombs. They depict scenes of grape farming, harvesting, wine production. There are labels glued on the vessels, indicating the owner and the year of the vintage, exactly the same as it is done on modern labels.

It is difficult to imagine a civilization that could exist without any kind of beverages, amusing conversation over a meal, raising the spirit in battle, kindling the fire of love a deux. On different continents, at different times, mankind has created a comforter in hard situations and a friend in joy: in America it was peyote and later tequila, in the Far East – rice beer and vodka. And the blessed sunny Mediterranean “begot” a grapevine drink – wine.

For the first time a man tried wine when the juice of wild grapes accidentally fermented in a jar. This event, which occurred many thousands of years ago, was the first experience of winemaking.

There can be found evidence that in Egypt, in the era of the Old Kingdom, the production of fermented grape juice was widely developed. In the Valley of the Kings, in the oldest tomb of the pharaohs, numerous jars for the fermented must have been found. They were sealed with resin plugs and put together with other objects in the grave, so that the deceased was not deprived of a soul-stirring drink in the afterlife. Of course, this wine is unlikely to please a modern man.

It is difficult to say why the ancient people became winemakers, for in those times the climate of the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates river basins was most suitable for growing barley, the main constituent of sour, turbid beer. Then this drink was considered the standard of quality, which is now often referred to by modern brewers. Judging by the archaeological finds and bas-reliefs from the Sumerian city of Uruk, the Sumerian wine was a rare thing. It was considered a special luxury and was drunk only by kings and their courtiers. When the civilization of the Sumerians extinguished, the grape culture migrated to the islands of the Aegean Sea. There it developed along with the mythology and customs of the ancient Greeks.

The art of winemaking reached such a level that important state affairs were often set with the help of wine. In the 7th century BC, for several decades in a row, the Scythians were terrorizing the peoples of Asia, attacking Assyria, then Urartu and Palestine. According to Herodotus, the Median king Kiaksar invited Scythian commanders to his place, treated them with wine, and then murdered them – drunk and helpless.

The Roman Empire started its expansion, and in a relatively short period Greece was conquered. In addition to gold and science, the achievements of winemaking were brought to Rome. What kind of wine did the Romans drink? In the works of Roman authors more than 80 varieties of wines are mentioned. The best was “vinum Caecubum” – Caecubian wine. The second after him was “Falernum” – Falernian. The third rate wines were those from Formia, Celaeno. Sabinian wine was considered a drink for the poor, in cheap Roman taverns it was served in leaden bowls. The Romans accustomed savage Europeans to the wine. While the Gauls (Frenchmen), the Germans, the Iberians (Spaniards) and the Angles (British) got acquainted with this beverage, it suddenly turned out that most of their territories are already occupied by Roman troops, and it is necessary to pay tribute. The Germans were frightened with such situation. They began to fight against the Romans, and against winemaking. The Romans extinguished, but the Germans could not abandon winemaking.

After the dissolution of the Roman Empire, the production of wine for almost 1,500 years was in decline. In the Middle Ages, this drink was consumed mainly in the south of Europe, where, in fact, grapes were grown. In the north and east, where there were very few vines, the main alcoholic beverages were beer and ale – for all social classes. Some quantity of wine was exported from the southern to the northern part of Europe, but the price was such that few people could afford to buy it.

However, since wine was necessary in the Catholic Mass, it was supplied in a certain volume by various Catholic orders: for example, the Benedictine monks were the main wine producers in France and Germany. They owned the vineyards of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. So, in fact, thanks to the Roman Catholic Church, winemaking survived in the Middle Ages and again “raised its head” in the 15th century. For example, 1435 was an important milestone in the history of winemaking: it was then that Count Johann IV Katzenelnbogen first planted Riesling – Germany’s most famous grapes. Monks, who were dealing with winemaking in the neighborhood, quickly cranked out a lot of wines which were supplied to almost all countries of Europe – for secular purposes. Around that time, the world’s first wine classification system was created in Portugal.

In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors, who reached the territory of modern Mexico and South America, planted vineyards for the production of wine used in Holy Communion. Now it’s hard to believe, but at that time it was Mexico that became the main wine producer in the New World. Mexican winemaking was so flourishing that it began to threaten the commercial wine production of the Spaniards, so the Spanish king ordered to stop winemaking in Mexico.

At that time, the vineyards were planted in Japan, and in the middle of the 17th century, Dutch settlers planted grapes and began to produce wine from it in South Africa. The next was California.

In China, according to an ancient legend, a man named Yu in 2000 BC was the first to make wine from grapes. After trying a new drink, the emperor banned its consumption, expelled Yu from China and predicted death of all peoples who would drink wine. However, at the source dated 1122 BC one can find direct indications that there were grapes in China at that time. In the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi wines were already drunk so heavily that it even caused riots. In the old book “Great Botany” a special paragraph is written about grapes, there it is said: wine was brought by towns as an honorable gift to its rulers, governors and emperors.

In 1373, Tai-Issu, the founder of the last dynasty, took this gift from Shanxi for the last time and forbade the presentation of wine in future. He said: “I drink very little wine and do not want this insignificant amount to cause any trouble to my people”.

In 1980, two full bottles of wine, corked in 1300 BC, were found in the tomb in Xinyang (Henan Province, China).


Wine in the ancient period

In ancient times, the technology of winemaking was primitive.

Grapes were pressed by hands or feet, in reed baskets smeared with clay, or in wooden boxes with a canopy.

The simplest press consisted of a long bag, one end of which was attached with a rope to the rack, and the other was twisted with the help of a stick.

The quality of wine was largely dependent on the grapes, and not on the winemaker.

The fermented wine was evaporated on fire until it acquired the syrup density, which, of course, largely lessened its alcohol content, besides wine was diluted with sea water, seasoned with various aromatic substances. To preserve wine during fermentation, alabaster, chalk, ground marble, salt, myrrh (aromatic gummy-resin of tropical trees from the Red Sea coast, the Arabian Peninsula) were added to the must.

At the end of fermentation, wine was poured into the tarred clay vessels: tar also contributed to the preservation of the wine. Wine was also preserved in leather wineskins, where it concentrated to a consistency of honey after evaporation of water; when used it was diluted with hot water.


Wine in the Middle Ages

With the course of time the winemakers had more and more experience and knowledge. However, the Middle Ages are marked by strict regulation of life and a fair share of the sadness in the society. Widespread drinking in ordinary taverns often served as a means to relieve stress, and, at least for a while, to abandon the limitations of one’s social class. The progress of the glass industry has helped humanity to move gradually from a barrel to a glass container. Glass bottles began to appear on the tables in taverns.

The bottle, introduced into everyday life in the Middle East and North Africa, no later than the 6th century, was improved by the glaziers of the Italian cities of Faenza and Urbino. At the turn of the Middle Ages and modern time, in the 17th century, after the invention of cork, the wine bottle reached its perfection.

In addition, it turned out that storing wine in bottles is more reliable than in barrels. And aroma of bottle wine differs from aroma of that from cask.

Initially, the corks were covered with wax or resin, on which the wine manufacturer or its owner put its seal. Subsequently, the sealing wax was applied.



Wine at the present day

Now viticulture and winemaking is spread all over the globe. In recent years, winemaking has been developing particularly rapidly in the southern hemisphere: in Australia and in the Republic of South Africa. Despite the fact that the area of ​​vineyards in the world tends to decline, the annual production of wine is kept on a stable figure. At the same time, the share of high-quality wine is constantly growing, as well as wine consumption in countries that previously “lagged behind”.

At the end of the 17th century, an important novelty was introduced into the world of wine – Portugal presented the world with port wine – a fortified wine of high quality (usually sweet); initially it was almost completely bought up by Englishmen suffering from trade conflicts between official London and France. Gradually, port took its place in all corners of the world.

The 18th century was very successful for winemaking: new technologies and scientific discoveries in wine production provided its fast spread. By the middle of the 19th century, most of the lost skills in winemaking were restored.

In 1863, in France, in the southern region of the Rhône River, vineyards began to die rapidly, suddenly and for an inexplicable reason. The epidemic soon spread throughout Europe: in France, wine production declined by almost four times in 15 years. According to various sources, from two-thirds to nine-tenths of all European vineyards perished. The smallest variety of aphids, a millimeter in length, the grape phylloxera was brought to Europe, apparently from North America. Very quickly the insect ate the roots of the vine bushes, which caused them to die.

However, the way out was found: the vine growers at some point discovered that the American vines are resistant to the insect, so they began to plant to their surviving vines those brought from America, and eventually got the best from both parts of the world – a phylloxera-resistant hybrid, giving fine wine.

In the 20th century, science became almost the main component of winemaking. Grapes ceased to be collected only by hand, the press was constantly improved, as well as filtration process. Winemakers finally figured out how to store wine properly and learned to maintain the necessary conditions artificially – first of all, the temperature. Also at this time most countries implemented strict standards for wine production in their regions.

Currently, the area occupied under the vineyards in the world is about 8 million hectares. The main plantations of vines are concentrated in Europe – 72%, in Asia – 13%, in Africa – 3%, in the New World (North and South America, Australia, New Zealand) – about 12%. The production of grapes constitutes 50-60 million tons per year in average, wine production – 260 million hectoliters (1 hectoliter is equal to 100 liters).

The largest wine producing countries in the world are France, Italy, Spain, USA, Argentina, Australia, Chile, wine is also produced in many other countries of the Old and New World – in Germany, Russia, Moldova, Bulgaria, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. Each country, actively engaged in winemaking, despite all the internal diversity of approaches and difference in technology, tends to develop its unique style of wine, which is a kind of business card at the world market.

There was an era in the past, when winemakers from different countries considered it necessary to imitate classical French wines. Today’s trend is the preparation of original wines, because the future is undoubtedly for local (aboriginal) varieties. CJSC “Buket Moldavii” offers a wide range of inimitable wine products: aromatized wines, vermouths, still varietal or sparkling wines – here every connoisseur will find a drink to his taste!

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