Wine is a multi-billion dollar industry today, with more people drinking wine with meals, out with friends, and for celebrations. But this beverage has a long and storied history, with its beginnings tracing as far back as the Neolithic Period. This fermented beverage has been known to ease social worries, help with depression, and help with economic growth. Whether from Italy, Australia, Spain, or California, wine comes from all over the world and is a continual source of pleasure and joy. Understanding the history of wine gives us better insight into its origins and its importance.
The Neolithic Period
During this period in history, which was around 8500-4000 B.C., the people of Egypt were able to settle permanently thanks to the cultivation of naturally growing plants and raising animals for food. People learned how to cook using new methods such as fermentation, adding spices, and applying heat. Around 6000 B.C., pottery was starting to be made in order to provide a way to transport food and liquid. Since clay is easily molded, new vessels were invented with a narrow top, making them an excellent place to store wine. There is also evidence of the alcohol being stored in an ancient wine bag. Anthropological digs have helped expand our knowledge of how people lived during this time, and discoveries of walls of pottery and wine vessels have been found in areas that would have been considered the kitchens of dwellings. This gives great insight into the importance of wine and how it played a role in everyday life.
Grapes were not native plants to Egypt. But hieroglyphics found along the rich deltas show that there were people making wine. Portraits and scenes of people making wine can be found scrawled along the sides of tombs. The jars and wine bag-type containers discovered during this time period had clay stoppers at the top, indicating that they may have served as wine vessels. The stoppers also had engravings on them, most likely indicating who made the wine or who owned the wine. Since people had become more civilized during this time, it is certainly possible that farmers were bringing in and cultivating grape plants in order to produce more wine.
It has long been thought that beer was the beverage of choice for those living near Iraq during the age of Mesopotamia. The dry, hot climate was not kind to grape plants, thus making it logical to think that wine was not as prevalent. The upper echelon and royalty, however, did drink wine. It is believed that this wine was brought in from the mountains of Iran or from the Euphrates River. Since river transportation had become common, many brought jugs of wine down from the mountains and river banks to be used for trade. Impressions that have been found depict men and women gathering together and drinking underneath grape arbors. This would indicate that there was, in fact, consumption of wine in the region.
Natural Grapes and Plants to Make Wine
Today, wild grape vines can be found growing all along the banks of the Mediterranean. Eventually, these vines were cultivated and domesticated. Once people learned to domesticate the grape, the ability to make wine increased. Fertilizing and cross breeding grapes also allowed for more varieties to be made and helped to encourage wine production. Through DNA testing, scientists can now learn more about the origins of the grapes and perhaps which regions first began producing wine. Some people claim that Noah was actually one of the first recorded people to be a wine-maker. Legend says he planted grapes and made wine on Mount Ararat after the great flood and then became drunk off of it. While it is not possible to know exactly when wine was first made, the evidence shows that it has long been a staple of human consumption for thousands of years.
For more information about the history and early beginnings of wine, please refer to the following websites:
- Ancient Egyptian Herbal Wine
- Wine for Eternity: Wine Jars Found in Tomb of an Egyptian King (PDF)
- Why Did Noah Get Drunk?
- Archaeologist Traces Wine to the Stone Age
- Wine in Ancient and Medieval Times
- A Brief History of Wine
- Wine in the Middle Ages
- Wine and Ancient Rome
- Drink of the Gods: Wine in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean
- The Origin of Wine
- Song of the Vine: A History of Wine
- Wine Timeline
- Neolithic Era Wine Vessel
- Alcohol’s Neolithic Origins (PDF)
- Wit and Wine: Ancient Iranian Ceramics