The History

The history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely intertwined with the history of agriculture and Western civilization. As of today, the earliest evidence of a fermented drink based on grapes is in China circa 7000 BCE, then more widespread evidence is found soon thereafter in the Near East, the grapevine and the alcoholic beverage produced from fermenting its juice were important to Mesopotamia, Israel, and Egypt and essential aspects of Phoenician, Greek, and Roman civilization. Many of the major wine-producing regions of Western Europe and the Mediterranean were first established during antiquity as great plantations. Winemaking technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire: many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were known; the design of the wine press advanced; and barrels were developed for storing and shipping wine.

The altered consciousness produced by wine has been considered religious since its origin. The Greeks worshiped Dionysus and Bacchus and the Romans carried on his cult. Consumption of ritual wine was part of Jewish practice since Biblical times and, as part of the eucharist commemorating Jesus’s Last Supper, became even more essential to the Christian Church. Although Islam nominally forbade the production or consumption of wine, during its Golden Age, alchemists such as Geber pioneered wine’s distillation for medicinal and industrial purposes such as the production of perfume. The Turkish Uyghurs were even responsible for reïntroducing viticulture to China from the Tang dynasty onwards.

Wine production and consumption increased, burgeoning from the 15th century onwards as part of European expansion. Despite the devastating 1887 phylloxera lice infestation, modern science and technology adapted and industrial wine production and wine consumption now occur throughout the world.