A Brief Timeline of a Few of the World’s Most Famous Winemakers

The basics of winemaking is actually very simple. Take grapes, crush them, and let the grape juice ferment with yeast to become alcohol, and voila wine is made. But if you use the most basic process, the resulting wine probably won’t taste very good. In order to make a good tasting wine, the winemaking needs to get much more complicated. And through the thousands and thousands of years humans have been making wine, multitudes of technologies and techniques have been invented by winemakers in an effort to make a better tasting drink.

The First Winemakers

Historians are unsure when humans first discovered how to make wine, but the earliest evidence of wine production has been dated to at least 8,000 years ago. These first wines were certainly nothing like what we drink today. They were probably thick, bacterial, and certainly disgusting by modern standards, although little is known about these first wines. 

Wine quickly began spreading in the ancient period thanks to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Both spread vines and wine culture around the Mediterranean and beyond. As wine spread and more and more people began making and consuming it, winemaking technology began advancing. This is especially true under the Ancient Romans. The Ancient Romans took wine very seriously; at this time it was considered a dietary staple for even the lowest social classes. So they obviously produced lots of wine and transported it throughout their empire. With such an emphasis on wine they developed many new winemaking techniques to help improve their wine. 

Although the Romans certainly enjoyed their wine, modern wine drinkers would certainly not enjoy a glass of their wine today. Even though the Greeks and Romans introduced many new winemaking techniques that improved their wine, they were still very far behind today’s winemaking technologies. One of the greatest problems with wine in this time period was trying to keep it from going bad. Many winemakers tried adding different ingredients to help preserve the wine with varying success. Some of these ingredients included resin, lead, ash, salt, and herbs. And when that failed, ingredients were added to cover up the bad taste of the off wine.

Eventually after the end of the ancient period, it was the Catholic Church that was the next group to put in a lot of effort to increase the quality of wine and develop new technologies and techniques. In Western Europe it was the Catholic Church that was responsible for producing most of the wine in the Middle Ages. Making the majority of the winemakers at the time, Catholic monks. Many of these monks came up with new ideas to improve the quality of wine in both the vineyards and wine cellars. 

In more recent times the discovery of yeast has finally explained how wine is actually made. Additionally, the discovery of bacteria and the importance of cleanliness in winemaking has made a massive impact on the taste of modern wine. The last 300 years has seen an enormous growth in winemaking techniques that have greatly improved the taste and quality of wine worldwide. 

The quality of the wine we drink today is due to the effort of thousands, and maybe even millions of different winemakers throughout history, who each contributed their knowledge to the wine world. Below is a timeline of some of history’s most famous winemakers through the ages, and how they contributed to help create the modern wine of today. 

  • 1668 Dom Pérignon (monk) made a significant contribution in the wine industry

    Dom Pierre Pérignon, O.S.B., a French Benedictine monk who lived from December 1638 to September 14, 1715, made significant contributions to the production and quality of Champagne wine during a time when the region’s […]
  • 1814 John Adlum started his career

    American viticulturist John Adlum, who lived from April 29, 1759, to March 14, 1836, was the first to grow the Catawba grape. “The father of American viticulture,” as he is referred as (grape-growing). He […]
  • 1839 Madame Clicquot Ponsardin built Neo-Renaissance style Château de Boursault

    The “Grande Dame of Champagne,” Madame Clicquot, née Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, Widow Clicquot, or Veuve Clicquot, was a French Champagne producer who lived from 16 December 1777 to 29 July 1866. When she was 27 […]
  • 1917 Maurice O’Shea became a winemaker

    Maurice O’Shea (13 June 1897 – 5 May 1956), one of Australia’s most well-known winemakers, is usually cited as the pioneer of the nation’s modern wine industry. Maurice’s parents were Irish-born wine and spirit […]
  • 1931 Max Schubert became a winemaker

    Max Schubert AM, an innovative Australian winemaker best known for developing Grange Hermitage, lived from 9 February 1915 to 6 March 1994. In the 2001 Sydney Morning Herald list of the 100 most significant […]
  • 1960s Denis Dubourdieu started career

    Denis Dubourdieu was a French winemaker and oenology professor at the University of Bordeaux who lived from July 1, 1949, until July 26, 2016. Numerous properties in Bordeaux, including Château Reynon, Château Doisy Dane, […]
  • 1969 Paul Draper became a chief winemaker

    Paul Draper, a winemaker from California who was born on March 10th, 1936, has been the Ridge Vineyards’ chief winemaker since 1969. Draper originally became well-known for his 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon when […]
  • 1972 Justin Meyer became a winemaker

    American vintner, enologist, and Christian Brothers monk Justin Meyer, also known as Raymond Meyer, lived from 11 November 1938 to 6 August 2002. He co-founded Silver Oak Cellars with Raymond Twomey Duncan in 1972; […]
  • 1972 Alfred Baxter, winemaker, founded Veedercrest Vineyards

    Californian producer A.W. Baxter (1928–2005) established Veedercrest Vineyards, which participated in the Judgment of Paris wine competition. The Veedercrest participant was Baxter’s first Chardonnay of a commercial vintage. In the cellar of his Berkeley […]
  • 1973 Andy Beckstoffer started his career

    Beckstoffer attended Virginia Tech on a football scholarship and was a native of Richmond, Virginia. He served in the American Army after receiving his engineering degree. He discovered the California wine industry in San […]
  • 1976 Kay Simon became a professional winemaker

    One of the first women to create wine in Washington State was Kay Simon, who started her career in the San Joaquin Valley of California and at Chateau Ste. Michelle after receiving her degree […]
  • 1978 Carol Shelton became a winemaker

    American winemaker and businesswoman Carol Shelton. She was named the San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year in 2005, making her the American winemaker with the most awards.
  • 1978 Cathy Corison became a winemaker

    Winemaker, businesswoman, and consultant from the United States is Cathy Corison. In Cabernet Sauvignon, she excels. 2011’s Winemaker of the Year was Corison, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. She began working in a […]
  • 1981 Sean Thackrey became a bonded winemaker

    American winemaker Sean Haley Thackrey lived in the Marin County, California community of Bolinas from July 9, 1942, until May 30, 2022. He ran an art gallery before he started creating wine. Thackrey has […]
  • 1981 Lane Tanner started her career

    Lane Tanner is an American winemaker and consultant. When she began working in the field in 1981, she was only the second women winemaker in Santa Barbara County. “Pinot Czarina” is the moniker she […]
  • 1982 Stéphane Derenoncourt began his career

    Stéphane Derenoncourt, a French vigneron, advises numerous Bordeaux estates as well as other vineyards throughout the globe. Together with his wife, Christine Derenoncourt, he co-owns Derenoncourt California in the Napa Valley and Domaine de […]
  • 1983 Mia Klein became a winemaker

    Mia Klein, a Californian winemaker and entrepreneur, founded Selene Wines in Napa. She has extensive experience in both Northern and Southern California’s food and wine businesses. Prior to enrolling in the University of California, […]
  • 1983 Heidi Peterson, a winemaker from Berkeley, California started her career

    Some of California’s most renowned cult wines were created by winemaker and entrepreneur Heidi Peterson Barrett. She has worked at a variety of wineries throughout her career, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Paradigm […]
  • 1984 Domaine Jean-Luc Colombo became a winemaker

    French wine producer and merchant Jean-Luc Colombo operates in the Rhône Valley. Colombo makes a number of Rhône Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wines, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, but he is most known for being […]
  • 1984 Helen Turley started her career

    American wine consultant and trailblazing winemaker Helen Turley. She is renowned for popularizing a number of cult Californian wines and for being the proprietor of the 20-acre (8.1 hectare) Marcassin Vineyard boutique vineyard. She […]
  • 1987 Theodora Lee founded her vineyard

    Theopolis Vineyards was established in 2003 by Ms. Theodora Lee, a senior partner and trial attorney at Littler. Ms. Lee is referred to as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards in the wine industry. She […]
  • 1997 Kristen Barnhisel, a Pinot noir and Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker

    American winemaker Kristen Barnhisel makes wine. At Inglenook, she oversees quality control. Making pinot noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines is her area of expertise. The first woman and the first American to work there […]
  • 2002 Peter Gago became a chief winemaker

    British-Australian winemaker and author Peter Gago AC was born on April 25, 1957. Since 2002, Gago has served as the chief winemaker at Penfolds and the guardian of the most well-known Australian wine, Penfolds […]
  • 2003 Ntsiki Biyela became a winemaker

    Ntsiki Biyela, a South African winemaker and entrepreneur who owns Aslina wines, was born in 1978. She formerly held the position of chief winemaker at Stellekaya Wines, where Biyela made history as the country’s […]
  • 2008 Bertony Faustin created Abbey Creek’s first wine

    Bertony Faustin, one of the top black vintners in America and the first Black winemaker in the state of Oregon, entered the wine industry wanting to make a statement. That is precisely what he […]
  • 2015 Paula Harrell founded P. Harrell wines

    There is no hurrying a desire that has been placed in your heart, according to Oakland-based winemaker Paula Harrell. P Harrell Wines’ founder and proprietor is introducing wine fans to her portfolio one glass […]
  • 2016 Jennifer McDonald founded Jenny Dawn Cellars

    Jenny Dawn Cellars was started by Jennifer McDonald and her family in 2016. In only a few short years, it has quickly grown from a concept that was being nurtured into Wichita’s first urban […]
  • 2017 André Hueston Mack founded Maison Noir

    André Hueston Mack left his “desk job” at Citicorp Investment Services despite having a great career there in order to follow his passion for wine. Mack learned the joys of introducing guests to the […]
  • 2018 Kim Lewis founded Ole’ Orleans winery

    Kim Lewis established Ole’ Orleans. Founded by a Black woman, this winery is the first microwinery in the state. Longtime educator Kim Lewis now opened a microwinery in New Orleans. The Ole’ Orleans tasting […]
  • 2018 Coviello Salinès founded Amour Genève wine

    The Amour Genève wine made by Coviello Salinès is inseparably tied to his father, Freddie Francisco Salinès. One reason for this is the older Salinès’ affinity for the color, which is reflected in the […]
  • 2020 Marvina Robinson founded her winery

    One of the few African American woman who owns a Champagne brand is Marvina Robinson. The name of her company, Stuyvesant Champagne, was inspired by her fondness for Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. The […]



“What Did Wine Taste like Thousands of Years Ago?” n.d. Serious Eats. https://www.seriouseats.com/wine-history-paul-lukacs-inventing-wine-how-wine-was-modernized-ancient-wine-tasted-terrible.

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Categories: Wine History TimelinesTags: , , , , , , , By Published On: June 27, 2022Last Updated: January 2, 2023

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