The truest form of wine is those produced from the fruit called grapes, its juice is fermented and bottled with great care. In the world there are many types of grapes, however by far the highest quality wines are produced from the European wine grape Vitis Vinifera. It has the delicate balance of flavors, sugar, aromas and other great qualities needed for a good wine are available in this type of grape. The grape is thought to have been found in the Caucasus region of Europe. The area is surrounded by the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains and is located in the modern nations of Georgia and the southern part of Russia. Vitis Vinifera has been cross bred with many hundreds of grape varieties, each suited to the geography of it location and produced to have its own distinct types of wine.
The art of viticulture (growing grapes) and the art of viniculture (growing grapes for wine) are many thousands of years old. In Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq, which sits between the Tigris River and the Euphrates River were the very first civilizations in history to cultivate grapes and where viniculture was fist practiced, some thousands of years ago, In the Code of Hammurabi, is the earth's first written law that contains the laws governing how wine should be made and sold over 4000 years ago.
We may never find out how the men learned how to make wine from grapes. The ancient Greeks have stories that tell us that Dionysus, the Greek God of wine and vegetation taught the ancient Greeks how to grow grapes and what process was needed to make wine. The Greeks became the first people in recorded history to plant vineyards for commercial use and to market those grapes to people of other countries over 3500 years ago.
Wine was a very popular drink for the ancient civilizations and was also held to be sacred as well. Wine was a part of many religious rituals and celebrations. The Greeks with their love of sea travel spread the news about growing grapes throughout the Mediterranean basin. They taught many other peoples the art of making wine, and how to grow grapes which is evident in the planted vineyards that showed up in lands from the Black Sea in the East to the East side of Spain in the west.
Wine drinkers of today would have been disappointed in the Greek wine of yesterday. The wine was stored in such a way that the flavor tasted more like turpentine than the wine of today, this is due in part to the fact that the storage vessel were lined with a resin substance that mixed into the wine to give it this awful taste. In addition to that, they flavor the wine with many different spices, herbs, flowers and even some perfumes; they also cut the wine with water before drinking it.
Then the Romans came along and borrowed some of the Greek culture for growing grapes when they conquered this civilization. Viticulture moved from the Greek to the Romans. When the Roman Empire expanded, viticulture expanded as well, vineyards were planted in many different areas all over Europe, in places that would later become France, Germany, Italy and England. The many vineyards under the Roman rule are still producing grapes for wine today.
Around 476 AD, the Romans fell at the feet of the German invaders. Europe settles a setback in political and scientific areas, with the institutions of learning stopping for a while. Viticulture survived the ravages of this problem because the Christian Religion picked up the making of wine, these early monks helped to preserve the method of wine making and even took over the vineyard that were necessary to practice them. The monks taught each other how to make homemade wine for sacraments and other religious reasons.
The renaissance in Europe along with the many travels of Columbus brought a revival of trade, science and as well as many other areas. The Europeans expanded to the New World, they took along wine making and by the 1500's viticulture was introduced to the South Americans in Chile and in the 1800's Spanish missionaries were growing grapes in California.
In North America, Leif Eriksson, stumbled upon the abundance of grape vines growing, on his voyage in 1000 AD, he called the area he found Vineland. Even though there were many grapes, they were not suitable for wine making. The species of grapes was called Vitis Lambusca, which thrives in New England all the way to Indiana and all the way down to Georgia. Good wine from these native grapes was almost impossible to make. The European wine would not grow on the soil and in the climate of North America, The viticulturalists from France went to Delaware to try and turn the Vitis Lambusca wine into good wine, they were unsuccessful.
A gentleman named John James Dufour was the one to have the first success in viticulture with these grapes in the 1800s. From the work that Dufour did, others took up his work and started the process of crossbreeding, nourishing and cultivating until they had the very first good grapes. From these efforts many different types of grapes emerged, places like Concord, Niagara, and Delaware were getting the American East their start in the wine industry. Ohio, New York and New Jersey developed even more important wine producing regions. About this time wines from California appeared, it was discovered that the European grapes could grow in these areas, because of the climate and the type of soil found there.
Then the bottom fell out of the European wine industry, with the introduction of the eastern American root louse, phylloxera, to the vineyards of Europe. The insect destroyed most of the European varieties in Europe, Australia and even in California. Almost all of the worlds stock of the Vitis vinifera was destroyed. However there were some American varieties that were unaffected by the parasite, and the European grape was saved by grafting the European variety of grapes with the American rootstocks. The European vineyards recovered from the disaster and were on the comeback all in the middle of the 19th century.
Today wine is produced everywhere and is drunk by millions of people In North America the grapes are hybridized by crossing them with European and American varieties have completely changed how wine tastes and is produce throughout Eastern United States. This study of the history of wine is great for learning what made the wine that you drink or make tastes so good.
By: Randy T. Slabey
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