Colonial Wine History Timeline
Humans have enjoyed wine for a very, very long time. No one was sure when humans first discovered how to make wine. But archeologists have found evidence of wine production as far back as 8,000 years ago in the modern-day countries of Georgia and Iran.
Wine First Spreads Through Europe
Since then, wine has been spread worldwide and is grown and produced in countries all over. The first people to begin spreading wine were the Ancient Greeks. As the Greeks traveled around the Mediterranean, they brought grape vines, planting them in many new locations. After the fall of the Greeks, the Romans quickly took their place. The Romans, even more so than the Greeks, began spreading wine and grape vines. To the Romans, wine was a dietary staple, so the need for wine grew as the Roman Empire grew. And as the empire expanded, so did winemaking and vineyards. The Romans were the first to bring grapes to many of the world’s most famous grape-growing regions today.
Once grapes were introduced to countries like France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, local people continued to grow and produce wines long after the Greeks and Romans were gone. Like the Romans, many European cultures began to view wine as a necessity rather than a luxury. This was especially true with the Catholic Church, which needed wine for many rituals. And so Europe’s wine industry grew through the fall of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages.
Wine Begins Spreading to the Colonies
Eventually, at the end of the 15th century, the wealthier, larger European countries began exploring the world. And suddenly, as the new world began opening up, there were new places where wine needed to be produced. First, it was the Americas. As the Spanish began exploring and colonizing the Americas, religion was one of the first things they brought to this new world. Catholic missionaries and priests were the first to begin a wine industry in the Americas. As they began building missions and converting Native Americans to Christianity, it became apparent they could not rely on imported Spanish wine to provide for all their wine needs. So Spanish grape vine cuttings were brought, and vineyards were planted. Simple wine-making facilities were built within missions so they could be self-sufficient. Grape vines and wine-making spread throughout South America, Mexico, and California through these missions and Catholic missionaries.
As the Age of Exploration continued in Europe, more European countries began discovering new lands and establishing new colonies. And, of course, many of these new colonies began planting grapes and making wine. The French brought grapes and wine to Canada and Northern Africa. The Dutch were the first to plant vines in South Africa. And the English encouraged the wine industry’s growth in Australia and New Zealand.
As these new colonies grew, so did their wine industries. Eventually, more and more European immigrants began moving into the new world. The wave of immigrants did two things for the colony’s wine industry. First, it increased the demand for wine. And second, many of these immigrants already possessed wine knowledge from their time in Europe, so they were able to help grow and expand the wine industry.
To learn more about how wine spread through the new world, check out our timeline below, featuring the history of wine in the colonies. It begins with the Spanish in America in the 16th century and continues to the end of the 19th century.
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