Viniculture, or the art of cultivating grapes specifically for wine, dates back to the Neolithic era. Wine has been a choice alcoholic beverage since before recorded history, and has remained a popular beverage. Humans have enjoyed a long lasting relationship with wine, and this resulted in many winemaking advances and techniques. People have learned how factors such as climate, temperature, soil quality, slope, grape variety, hazards and methods contribute to the finished product. As knowledge increases, wine growers utilize new practices and techniques.
By the fifth century B.C., ancient Rome flourished in wine production. The techniques used throughout Rome had developed from earlier methods promulgated by the Greeks. Many grape varieties first planted by the Greeks were introduced to various regions throughout Rome. Viniculture focuses on several aspects of grape cultivation. While archaeologists continue to research the exact origins of viniculture, evidence shows that humans have cultivated, harvested and blended grapes for the production of wine for thousands of years. Records show that the Phoenicians used specific processes for wine making between 1200 and 900 B.C. By medieval times, Catholic monks performed many winemaking tasks.
How Climate Shaped Viniculture
Northern European regions found that harsh climate conditions would prove devastating to many grape varieties. White grapes became a popular choice, as they were hardy and could adjust easily to climate changes. Over time, winegrowers learned that climates must be temperate for best growth. Additionally, vineyards planted near mountains or water often thrive. The importance of climate for successful grape production must not be overlooked. Choosing grape varieties suited for the region’s climate is the best way to ensure a healthy, vital crop.
In addition to climate, slope and type of soil are invaluable for winemaking. Vineyards perform best when planted on sloped, rather than flat, land. As growing grapes require plenty of direct sunlight, sloped land ensures grapes receive the sun exposure needed. High quality soil is required for optimum growth, and some grape varieties are better suited to one type of soil over another. Soil should have good drainage to allow the vines to thrive.
Wine Growing Hazards
Grapes are not without their dangers, and winemakers are continually aware of potential hazards. Sharp climate changes, plant disease such as mildew, frost, flooding and the pest Phylloxera. Grape mildew is a serious threat that can wreak havoc on vineyards. Viniculturists must stay current with the latest techniques and treatments to protect vineyards from threats.
Archaeologists, scientists and researchers continue to discover viniculture practices from ancient times. Many of today’s modern wine growing methods were used in ancient and medieval times. However, these techniques have been expanded upon and developed. For example, the green harvesting technique was employed in ancient vineyards. The technique involves pruning grapes that are still green on the vine. This forces the vine to focus its energy on the grapes that are closer to maturity. The technique also helps improve the quality of the grapes left on the vine.
Another practice that is popular involves blending. Viniculturists may plant several grape varieties in one vineyard. This is called field blending and offers many advantages, including maximizing vineyard space, capacity and output. As researchers continue to unfold the various techniques and practices used in viniculture, many wine makers are finding innovative ways to increase productivity without sacrificing wine quality.
- Now That’s What you Call a Real Vintage: Professor Unearths 8,000 year old wine: Viniculture boasts a long history and archaeologists have shown that Neolithic man bottled red wine, approximately 8,000 years ago.
- ‘Oldest Known Wine Making Facility’ found in Armenia: Archaeologists discovered a wine making facility in the mountains of southeast Armenia. It is to be one of the earliest examples of growing vines for making wine.
- Timeline of Alcoholic Beverages: This timeline documents the art of viniculture, wine making and alcoholic beverages from the Stone Age, throughout the Greek and Roman periods and up to modern times.
- The Beginnings of Winemaking and Viniculture in the Ancient near East and Egypt: Penn Museum examines viniculture’s origins and examines how climate has influenced practices.
- Wine and Rome: The University of Chicago examines the practice of viniculture and wine production in ancient Rome.
- Do as the Romans Do: Ancient Winemaking Techniques Revived: The Telegraph discusses how researchers attempted to recreate wine that would be similar to the wine the ancient Romans manufactured.
- A Brief History of the Grape and its Uses: The University of Kentucky looks at the history of grape cultivation, viticulture and the migration of wine making.
- Veni, Vidi, Viticulture: Remains of Roman Vineyards Found in UK: Archaeologists uncovered evidence that the ancient Romans brought wine and their wine making skills to the UK.
- Wine, Grapes and Vineyards: This article looks at the history and process of wine production.
- Protestants and Catholics: Drunken Barbarians and Mellow Romans: This paper looks at the use of alcohol in medieval Rome and the use of wine in religious feasts and special occasions.
- The Time of the Roman Empire: Learn more with this in-depth look at the art of winemaking across the Roman Empire.
- Northern Grapes: Integrating Viticulture, Winemaking and Marketing of New Cold Hardy Cultivars Supporting and Growing Rural Wineries: Take a look at how modern methods have improved the durability of grapes by creating hardy types.
- Wine: The Past 7,400 Years: Learn about the history of wine and its spread throughout Europe in this fascinating document.
- A Brief History of Wine: Discover wine’s origins and how the Phylloxera epidemic devastated many European vines.
- Tree-rings Prove Climate was Warmer in Roman and Medieval Times than it is Now: This study shows that climate changes have lowered the temperatures of ancient Rome, answering the question how Europeans were able to cultivate grapes in northern regions.
- Grapes of Ancient Rome Thrive Again in Southern Italy: Learn how the Mastroberardino family of Italy’s Campania region has successfully revived several grape varieties that date back to ancient Rome.
- Ancient Grape Soars: Ancient Roman Grape Makes Superlative Wine: The ancient Roman grape Aglianico thrives in volcanic soils and is making a comeback in the modern-day wine industry.
- Italian Archaeologist Have Grape Expectations of the Ancient Wine: Researchers share how they are attempting to grow a grape vineyard with the same methods as used during ancient Rome.