Wine and Spring In History

The arrival of spring has long been associated with the renewal of the annual winemaking cycle across cultures. As winter thaws into the blossoming season, vineyards prepare for a new vintage with timeless rituals carried through generations. Tracing wine lore and spring symbolism throughout history reveals an enduring connection between the season’s rebirth and humanity’s love of wine.

Wine and Spring In History

Spring Imagery in Ancient Wine Cultures

Wine and spring are intimately linked in ancient mythologies and artifacts across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Fertility gods connected to wine and agriculture are depicted alongside springtime scenes of flowering vines and fruiting trees.

Table 1: Spring Symbolism in Ancient Wine Cultures

Culture Spring Motifs
Egyptian Osiris as god of vegetation and wine
Greek Dionysus returns from underworld, imagery of sprouting vines
Roman Festival of Liberalia celebrated young adulthood and first taste of wine
Persian Myth of Shiraz, a young maiden whose blood nurtured vines
Indian Vasanta celebrations of love often staged among blossoming mango groves

The sprouting of dormant grapevines in spring inspired awe as a metaphor for rebirth. Young wine ready for its first drinking at this time of year represented youthful vigor and the fleeting sweetness of life.

A Bottle of Champagne on Ice Bucket

Spring Rites in Medieval European Winemaking

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church incorporated wine and vineyards into springtime rituals practiced in winemaking regions of Europe. Monastic orders like the Benedictines cultivated sacred vine “Great Growths” alongside monastery gardens blooming back to life after winter.

Table 2: Spring Rites in Medieval European Winemaking

Tradition Description
Rogation Days Priest-led processions through vineyards to bless crops
Vine Beating Striking vines with sticks thought to ensure fertility
Vin Cuit Making reduced “holy wine” from first pressed juice of spring

These rituals blessed the year’s new vintage and sanctified the natural forces governing growth and renewal. Carvings of monks tending springtime vines helped cement wine’s role in celebrating the Resurrection.

The Arrival of Spring in Early American Winegrowing

For early American colonists aiming to establish vineyards in the New World, the arrival of spring marked a tense period of anticipation. After landing in North America in the 17th century, European settlers observed native wild grapes sprouting each April and May. This signaled it was time to sow viticulture dreams transplanted from the Old World.

Table 3: Spring in Early American Winegrowing

Colony Notable Spring Winegrowing Events
Virginia In 1609, colonists note abundant “Vines and Grapes” while exploring along James River in spring
New York In 1624, Dutch settlers optimistic about prospects of wild grapes leafing out on Manhattan Isle
California In 1772, Franciscan missionaries giddy at vitality of spring grape buds in San Diego

But unpredictable weather, floods, and frosts frequently dashed hopes of those first American vintages. The foreign vines often failed to thrive. Yet some pioneers persisted, slowly adapting Old World grapes to the New World’s seasons over generations.

Springhouse Wineries of Early America

Colonial winemakers lacking proper wine cellars got creative by using small freestanding structures called springhouses to tend young wines. These buildings were set partially underground over cold natural springs, taking advantage of chill air and running water to regulate temperature.

Table 4: Springhouse Wineries of Early America

Winery Description
Belair Springhouse Built by Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll in early 1800s to store wine at his estate
Rose Hill Springhouse Springhouse at George Washington’s brother’s estate, where experiments with wine likely took place
Jefferson’s Springhouse At Monticello, Jefferson built his springhouse first to provide space to vinify grapes

The cool springhouses helped prevent fragile new vintages from spoiling, allowing pioneers to pursue the dream of domestic wine production. They show how early winemakers adapted Old World knowledge to make use of the Americas’ natural bounty.

Revival of Ancient Spring Festivals

As modern wineries proliferated, some revived ancient pagan rites celebrating bonds between wine and the spring season. Starting in the late 1800s, these efforts helped market wine culture to an increasingly secular audience.

For example, California’s Lodi region hosts an annual Vintage Festival patterned after Roman spring rites for Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility. And New York’s Finger Lakes region has May Wine festivals that originated with German immigrants reviving medieval Maifests or “Maying.”

Today’s spring wine festivals recast and reinterpret old traditions through a modern lens. But they retain a sense of heritage, connecting wine lovers to histories larger than themselves.

New Spring Wine Rituals

As the wine industry matured over the 20th century, new spring rituals emerged surrounding the annual release of newly bottled vintages. Tastings of the previous year’s “Futures” allowed collectors to sample wines still aging in barrel just before spring bottling. And enthusiasts lined up each spring for the premier chance to buy coveted new releases.

Table 5: New Spring Wine Rituals

Ritual Description
En Primeur Futures tastings of young Bordeaux wines each spring, started in 1970s
Vintage Release California wineries host release parties for previous year’s vintage each spring
Spring Wine Auctions Collector auction houses hold major sales of rare wines each spring in New York and Hong Kong

These rituals nurture an aura of excitement surrounding the spring reveal of the industry’s latest output. They tap into a cultural meme – established over millennia – of viewing spring as a time of fresh beginnings and renewal for wine lovers.

Conclusion

The return of spring has long stoked inspiration and ritual surrounding wine. Associations between the season and wine culture took root in antiquity and blossomed through history via myth, religion, agriculture, and marketing. Wine in spring represents nature’s revival – and a chance for humanity’s annual spiritual regeneration through a fermented gift of the earth. Modern winemakers carry on this connection through ritual even as science illuminates the growing cycle in new ways. Spring retains its magic – and from ancient bacchanalia to today’s release parties, it’s clear humanity still thirsts to celebrate this season’s promise.

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Did you know? The first day of spring is called the vernal equinox, which occurs around March 20th in the northern hemisphere.

Fun Facts About Wine Growing in Spring

With Spring in the air, these fun facts about wine grapes will help you feel ready for longer days, more sun, and flower blooms. [2]

  • The rising temperature in the soil prompts the vines to “awaken.” During this process, “sap bleeding” (aka sap flowing through the vines) occurs. This is the first step in grape vines producing fruit.
  • Included in the first stage of grape growing is bud break when fuzzy buds appear on the vines.
  • Flowers on grape vines do not appear until 40-80 days after bud break (usually late Spring). 
  • Grape vines do not need pollinators to produce fruit. Instead, they are self-fruitful (aka they self-pollinate). 
  • Only one grape grows from each flower.

Wine and Spring In History

Celebrate Springtime with Wine

Generally, lighter red wines and sparkling white wines are top choices among wine drinkers in the springtime. As the mood shifts from dark, dreary winter weather to blooming flowers, the selection of wine shifts with it. Instead of port or merlot, Spring brings with it fun rosé and Riesling offerings. 

Below are some spring wine options which mirror the spring atmosphere and fare well with lighter bites. 

  • Summer in a Bottle Long Island Rosé

Decked out in a flower-covered bottle, this Long Island Rosé screams springtime. It features a delicious fruity flavor and a light acidity that makes a perfect pairing with warmer weather. Seafood or a fruit and cheese-covered charcuterie board make an excellent match to this wine. 

  • White Wine with Bubbles

This Spring Break friendly wine comes in a can for easy portability. White Wine with Bubbles features melon notes and a well-balanced flavor. It’s made from a combination of viognier and unoaked chardonnay. This wine pairs well with any type of pizza, making it the ideal spring weather beverage for college attendees and adults who want a fun wine drink.

This sophisticated Spanish sparkling wine (and champagne’s rival) is made with a blend of macabeo, Xarel-lo, and parellada. Then, it’s aged for 34 months so it offers a golden color when it’s poured from the bottle. Avinyó Cava Reserve Brut 2018 features delicious fruit notes, including pear, lemon, and citrus. It goes well with appetizers (like nachos), shellfish, and tilapia.

  • Fiorini Lambrusco di Sorbara Corte degli Attimi 2021

Spring is the ideal time to enjoy a glass of Lambrusco from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. This sparkling red wine comes in a beautiful light salmon color to match the blooming flowers. It features a bone-dry aspect that keeps it refreshing. Fiorini Lambrusco di Sorbara Corte degli Attimi is excellent paired with grilled vegetables, light salads, and charcuterie boards.

This Day in Wine History

March 4: Many important wine-related events have occurred on March 4 throughout history. For example, in 1925, pinotage was created for the first time by a South African scientist.

March 31: This date also has multiple significant wine history events over multiple years. In 1991, the first wine yeast hybrid strain was produced. This date also marks the destruction of many vineyards and wineries during the Croatian War of Independence.

April 16: April 16, 778, marks the birth of Louis the Pious. He followed in his father’s footsteps by selling wine to monasteries in the Rhine area. He was also buried at the Monastery of Lorsch, which had a significant connection to wine as one of the top producers in the area.

April 25: In 1950, Robert Peugeot was born. He later became the co-owner of the famous Château Guiraud wine brand. In 1989, a bottle of 1787 Château Margaux, thought to be owned by Thomas Jefferson, was spilled at a black-tie event.

May 7: In 1785 in France, Sauvignon blanc was discovered on this day. In 1945, an unconditional surrender was offered to Dwight D. Eisenhower at Reims. This event led to a six-case vintage wine celebration the following day.

Want to read more? Try these books!

The Little Book of Rosé- Summer Perfection (The Little Books of Food & Drink, 9) Tenderheart- A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds

References

[1] “Spring Wine.” Wein.plus, glossary.wein.plus/spring-wine#.

[2] Mowery, Lauren. “Spring in the Vineyard Brings Hope and Rebirth.” Wine Enthusiast, March 19. 2021, www.winemag.com/2021/03/19/spring-vineyard-wine-seasons/. 

[3] Lieberfarb, Amy. “Fun, Unique & Amusing Facts about Wine.” Sip on This Juice, July 6. 2016, siponthisjuice.com/fun-odd-amusing-facts-about-wine/.

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , , , , , , By Published On: March 15, 2023Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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