Origins of Winemaking

Origins of Winemaking

While many of us think of France, Italy and Spain when we hear the word wine, it actually started a long time ago. We can trace the history of winemaking back a few thousand years.

Viticulture began to take off around 6000 BCE in Mesopotamia and the areas surrounding it. It was savored by the upper classes, while commoners enjoyed beer and mead.

The Greeks

Wine was a part of daily life in Ancient Greece. It was a popular beverage for drinking, at parties and as a sacrifice to the gods. They gave a lot of attention to vine growing and winemaking. The Greeks developed techniques that are still used today. They also influenced the way that people make wine around the world. They would also trade their wine with other countries like France, Italy and Russia. This helped other countries develop their own styles of wine.

The Greeks had many different types of wines, but they are famous for their white wines and retsina. The white wines were made from grapes like Savatiano, Roditis and Athiri. They were known to have low acidity. The retsina is a wine that has been around for over 2,500 years. The retsina is very sweet with flavors of peach, lemon, kiwi and banana.

It was a very important part of the Greek culture to drink wine, and they even held festivals to celebrate it. They drank the wine with a little bit of water mixed in. This was so that it wouldn’t be too strong. They also believed that only barbarians drank undiluted wine. They believed that if you drank the full-strength wine, then it could drive you insane or kill you.

The Greeks worshipped Dionysus, which is the god of wine and vineyards. He was also the god of fertility, ritual madness and theatre. Dionysus was a vivid and erotic god, so the Greeks loved him. Dionysus was a big part of their culture and religion, so they would drink wine to please him.

The Ancient Greeks were very good at farming, and they learned how to grow vines so that they could make wine. They started to train the vines to grow in a certain direction and a specific shape. They did this by putting up trellis and supporting them with timber props. The vines were grown in rows that were a certain distance apart. They also planted the vines in the ground and trained them up trees.

The Romans

During the Roman period, wine took on a new level of sophistication. They began to cultivate their own grapes in greater numbers and experimented with blending different types of grape varieties. In doing so, they developed many of the techniques that are still in use today. The Romans also understood the science behind winemaking, and they knew how to control fermentation in order to make quality wines.

The Romans loved their wine, and they drank it with almost every meal. The Romans were very interested in what made wine taste good, and they drank a wide variety of wines. They preferred full-bodied wines, and they also liked sweet wines. They also enjoyed drinking wines with added ingredients such as saffron, honey, and ground pepper.

In the ancient world, it was believed that the magic of turning grape juice into wine was a gift from the gods. This was a belief that predated the scientific discoveries of Louis Pasteur, who discovered that it is yeast bacteria that turn sugar into alcohol.

Before Pasteur’s discovery, people had no idea how alcoholic fermentation works, and they were left to rely on trial and error in order to produce great wine. This is why wine is so renowned as a beverage, and it is because of this early trial and error that we have such a wide variety of delicious wines available to us today.

The winemaking process in ancient Rome began with the “stomping” of the grapes by slaves. This step is important because it releases the grape juice and gives the wine its flavor and aroma. They then put the juice in large jars made of terra-cotta to ferment. The jars were sealed and then stored in cool places to keep the wine from spoiling.

Once the wine had fermented, it was bottled and sold. They divided their production between new young wines for the masses and army and older, more refined wines for the connoisseurs. Some of the most famous wines of the ancient world were produced in the Roman Empire. One such wine was the Opimian vintage of 121 BC, which is named after Consul Lucius Opimius.

The Middle East

The Middle East has a long history of winemaking. It is often considered to be the cradle of wine, dating back to 7,000 BC when people in Georgia began making it. They turned grape juice into a drink by burying it underground for up to 50 years. The beverage soon spread to the rest of the world. Today, many of the world’s best wines come from the region, including Chardonnay and Shiraz.

There are few archaeological sites in the Middle East where early viticulture has been discovered, but it is likely that wild grapes of the species Vitis silvestris—an ancestor of modern wine grapes—were used in early Neolithic beverages. It would have become easier to make wine after the invention of pottery vessels.

By the time of the Early Bronze Age, grape cultivation was well established in the southern Levant and Egypt. In Egypt, a thriving royal winemaking industry was already in place by Dynasty 3 (2700-2350 BC), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period. In addition, wine was regularly featured on tomb walls, and offering lists accompanying the tombs included five wines that were definitely produced at vineyards in the Nile Delta.

In the Middle East, a variety of religious traditions made wine part of everyday life. It was used for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes and was a popular ingredient in meals. It also served as a status symbol and was often used to elicit feelings of sociability in social gatherings.

Despite the fact that Muslim cultures banned the production and consumption of alcohol, the tradition of winemaking continued in places like Mardin and Midyat, where Assyrian Christians cultivated their own local grape varieties like Bogazkere. The grapes are a good choice to be enjoyed by those who appreciate the terroir of the region, as they have very unique characteristics that wine aficionados will surely enjoy.

The prophet Micah once proclaimed that the day will come when wars will cease, and men will forge their spears into pruning hooks and sit under their own vines and harvest their own fruits. This day has yet to arrive fully, but it is close. As wars continue to rage and the economy suffers, people are taking steps to revive traditional farming methods. They are finding that a grapevine can be an invaluable source of sustenance and income.


The earliest winemakers in America were a group of French Huguenot refugees who arrived on the coast of what would become Florida around 1562. They found a grape called the muscadine, which was native to the area and began making muscadine wines, a sweet, fruity variety. Attempts to plant the classic grapes of Europe, like Vitis vinifera, weren’t successful because they didn’t do well in the wet climate of the American colonies.

In the 1700s and 1800s, more wineries were established in Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and even Pennsylvania, but the quality of the wines still fell short of what Europeans had been used to. This was largely because the vines were being affected by diseases and pests that ravaged the crops in their homeland and didn’t thrive in the American climate.

By the 1830s, things started to turn around. A breakthrough came in Cincinnati, Ohio, when Nicholas Longworth made a sparkling Catawba wine that was compared to the great Champagnes of France (Mobley, 2017). This was the first commercially successful American wine.

It wasn’t long before other regions got into the act as the demand for American wine grew. It was largely fueled by the boom of the jet age as Americans were able to travel to Europe and taste wines that piqued their interest. These new consumers were different from their predecessors in that they had little to no loyalty to a particular brand of wine and were always on the hunt for something new and exciting.

They approached their wine drinking with a distinctly American consumer mentality, led by figures like Robert Parker and Ralph Nader, who advocated for higher ratings and better prices. However, as time went on, this generation of Americans became more sophisticated and realized that in order for a wine to be great, it needs history and tradition. This is when the modern wine industry was born.

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On this Day

6000BC: Traces of winemaking were discovered in the Southern Caucasus region of Georgia. These traces date back to prehistoric times of 6000 BC.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Ancient Wine- The Search for the Origins of Viniculture Ancient Wine- The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton Science Library, 66)


[1] Millon, Marc. Wine A Global History. s.l. : Reaktion Books Ltd, 2013.

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