Exploring the Influence of Ancient Trade on Viticulture

Wine has been a fascinating drink in human history’s gastronomy studies and cultural heritage. Wine has been very important to many cultural festivals and rituals. Furthermore, it has profound historical importance since it is the main cause and facilitator of various social and historical events. 

It is important to note that the ancient trade route not only facilitated the distribution of wine knowledge, various varieties of grapes, and the winemaking process but also contributed to shaping the landscape and leaving a permanent, memorable history of wine.

This blog will discuss the connection between wine and ancient trade routes, such as Spice Route and silk route, as the fascinating aspect of the drink.

Camel on the Silk Road

Pic 1. Illustration “Camel on the Silk Road.”  | Source

The ancient wine trade routes are very significant in part of historical literature. However, in this article we will focus on only two routes. Therefore, in order to fully understand the impact of ancient trade routes on wine, we have to critically examine several social and economic dynamics. The dynamics contributed to shaping these complex networks, interactions, and exchanges along these historic routes. It is evidenced that these trade routes facilitated cultural exchange, thus enabling the transmission and exchange of ideas, technologies, and commodities among different civilizations.

FACT #1: Did you know that wine trade participated in shaping societies and their traditions?

As ancient trade routes crossed borders wine trade became a carrier of knowledge and tradition. This interplay between trade routes and wine created new flavors and rituals among winemaking communities. Hence, trade routes and various cultural connections it fostered.

The Spice Route

The Spice Route was the “Roman Empire” water transportation system. This route was an ancient trade network that linked the Mediterranean with the Far East. The Spice Route covered a large distance, facilitating the exchange of ideas between several different cultures. For instance, modern European traders were exposed to various cultures with unique customs through the route they used. They started by navigating through the Red Sea and then entered the Indian Ocean. This form of interaction exposed them to various varieties of grapes that participated in improving of the wine making techniques. Therefore, as the traders returned home, they had an intense knowledge of the wine; thus, each created a captivating fusion of winery style and wine flavors.

Pic 2. Map of the Roman Empire during Trajan's Reign 117AD.

Pic 2. Map of the Roman Empire during Trajan’s Reign 117AD. | Source


This trade route was very significant during the era of ancient Rome. In 117AD, the wine trade was significant since it connected the vast Roman empire with the Eastern provinces, extending as far as China. The grape cultivation was prevalent in the regions of Aegean, the Levant, and Persia. 

Moreover, it is important to note that Romans were renowned for their unquenchable desire for wine. They were instrumental in novel grapes varieties and vineyard techniques throughout the empire’s wine regions. This route facilitated interaction between the Roman capital, the modern region, and the previously mentioned regions. Therefore, this route acted as a pivot for the growth of renowned wine-producing areas such as Bordeaux and  Rhône Valley.

The Silk Road

The Silk Route was an extensive land-based trade route that connected China and the Mediterranean. This route was very significant, especially when there were challenges in water-based travel. The route ensured the spread of wine knowledge throughout Asia. The westward movement included silk ( hence the name of the route), cooking spices in exchange of grapevines, and winemaking practices in Asia. Therefore, the Silk Route was vital in distributing viticulture throughout Central Asia.

Fact #2: Did you know that the historic Silk Road extended its influence to present-day Georgia?

Georgia was not only a stop along the Silk Road but also a center of viticultural innovation. Therefore, the Silk Road was more than goods and spices. It is shapped the world of wine as we know it that’s why it is recognized by UNESCO.

The Silk Road Map.

The Silk Road Map. | Source

Additionally, Silk Route had a very significant impact on Georgia since it currently has a rich winemaking history that spans over 8000 years. The region is now one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions in the modern world. The country has its unique “Qvevri winemaking method,” which involves the fermentation and aging of wine in buried clay vessels. It is evidenced that the Silk Road trade route largely influenced this method.

Georgia’s strategic position as a geographical crossroad connecting Europe and Asia was vital to Chinese Silk Road trading and business activities. Hence, it facilitated the exchange of grapes variety, fermentation techniques, winemaking expertise, and the diversity and uniqueness of Asian wines.

How About a Recap:

We have seen that ancient trade route significantly impacts the development and distribution of wine. The Spice and Silk Routes facilitated cultural exchange and influenced viticultural practices across European and Asian civilizations. Therefore, as we drink, toast, and enjoy, it is important to understand that the exploration of trade routes reveals the significant impact of wine on historical development.

Indeed, the enduring power of this unquenchable drink, wine, transcended borders and created a remarkable long-lasting connection.

Let’s toast to that!

References and Citations

  1. http://www.britannica.com/topic/spice-trade
  2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_Empire_Trajan_117AD.png
  3. https://en.unesco.org/silkroad/countries-alongside-silk-road-routes/georgia
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spice_trade
  5. https://pulledcorks.com/blog/rome
  6. https://www.123rf.com/photo_49675859_camel-on-the-silk-road.html
  7. https://www.britannica.com/money/topic/Silk-Road-trade-route
  8. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/spice-trade-how-changed-world-preeti-sharma
  9. https://www.mcclaincellars.com/culture-tradition-history-of-wine/ 
  10. https://www.ourworld.co/georgia-in-the-footsteps-of-the-ancient-silk-road/
  11. https://www.studentsofhistory.com/the-silk-road
  12. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1777/the-spice-trade–the-age-of-exploration/
  13. https://www.worldhistory.org/Silk_Road/

Want to read more? Try these books!

Churchill- A Drinking Life- Champagne, Cognac, and Cocktails The Wine Maker's Answer Book- Solutions to Every Problem; Answers to Every Question

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesBy Published On: February 29, 2024Last Updated: March 4, 2024

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!