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History of Winemaking: Origin of Wine (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on November 17, 2022 by Lydia Martin

The history of winemaking is well-documented in different cultures, but it is believed to be around as early as 7000 BC. 

Winemaking has spread worldwide, and its rich history has been a great foundation for modern wines. 

Let’s go over the wine production history and how it differs in several cultures. 

Wine Production History 

getting wine on a barrel

Fermenting fruit and consuming it as an alcoholic beverage has been around since ancient times, and there are several accounts of how it started in several cultures. 

The archaeological pieces of evidence of winemaking are grape processing and domesticated stocks. 

The use of grapes for wine began in China, and it was supported by the archaeological evidence on pottery shards dated around 7000-6600 BCE, wherein wine is made from fruit, rice, and honey. 

Major wine producers in Western Europe were established during the Roman Era. Barrels and bottles were invented, and Catholic Church preserved winemaking for mass. 

Let’s Take A Closer Look

Ancient Winemaking

Before the spread of winemaking in various places, ancient winemaking began in China in 7000 BC. 

It was 6000 BC when scholars found the earliest evidence of winemaking in Georgia and 5000 BC in Iran. 

There was also evidence of winemaking in Sicily from 4000 BC, and the steady production of wine was in Armenia from 4100 BC, where you can find the earliest winery.  

Vintners will crush grapes using their feet and collect the juices in a vat to ferment. The evidence of winemaking shows that grapes are domesticated to allow large-scale production. 

There were ancient legends of winemaking where a woman contemplated suicide in a barrel of fermented grapes, but instead, she experienced intoxication. 

The King then decreed all grapes for winemaking. 

Chinese Wines

hand pressing grapes for wine making

Both ancient Rome and Greece were known for their love of wine, but it all began in China. 

2000 years before Europeans decided to make wine, China had been making drinks out of fermented honey, rice, and fruit. 

Scholars have recognized the residues on pottery shards around 7000-6600 BCE at Jiahu for early winemaking. 

Also, there was textual evidence of using grapes in the Zhou Dynasty 1046-221 BCE. The grapes used may be wild grapes native to China and not from Western Asia. 

The European grapes were introduced during the second century BCE along with Silk road imports. 

Mediterranean & European Wines

Modern wine practices were derived from Ancient Greece, contributing to Greece’s economy as the alcohol demand increased. 

In Rome, wine is an important part of their culture, and winemakers established most areas in Rome for producing wine during the Roman Era. 

As the Roman empire fell, the Catholic Church continuously preserved winemaking as an integral part of their religious practices.  

Modern Winemaking

wine equipment

Winemaking has spread worldwide, and Western European countries and America dominated it. 

Machines became commonplace on every winemaking step, from grape picking to bottling. 

These countries use specific grapes for specific wines, and there are appellation systems to categorize wine. 

The process is almost similar, but it is more advanced and done on a larger scale. 

Crushing of grapes with feet was replaced with a mechanical crusher, and winemakers used brewer’s yeast instead of the naturally-occurring yeasts in grapes. 

Who First Invented Wine? 

Based on National Geographic, the people living at Gadachrili Gora are the world’s earliest known vintners [1]. They produced wine on a larger scale in 6000 BC. 

Prehistoric humans are reliant on bone tools and stone. There were also remnants of tartaric acid and fingerprints that showed wine residues on pottery fragments. 

“They were pressing it in cooler environments, fermenting it… transporting it to the villages when it was ready to drink.”

– Stephen Batiuk, Archaeologist

What are the 4 Stages of Winemaking? 

pouring wine in a glass

Winemaking during ancient times and today may not be that similar, but thanks to the advancement of technology, many have continuously enjoyed wine. 

The stages of winemaking are as follows: (1) harvesting, (2) crushing and pressing, (3) fermentation and clarification, and (4) aging and bottling. 

While there are traditional winemakers, some wineries, especially the larger ones, tend to use automated processes for faster and more consistent sweet and dry wine production. 

FAQs 

What is the oldest known wine?

The oldest known wine is the Speyer wine bottle, at least 1650 years old. It dates back sometime between 325 and 359 AD and was founded in Germany. 

Can you drink a 100-year-old wine?

Yes, you can drink a 100-year-old wine, but the taste can be uncertain. As wine continuously ages in a bottle, the taste can be unpredictable and taste bad after 100 years. 

Was any wine recovered from the Titanic?

Yes, divers recovered many wines from the Titanic. Champagnes like the 1907 Heidsieck Gout Americain were recovered in good shape. 

There were no reports on how many bottles were recovered; however, in 2004, six bottles were sold to a rich Asian collector for presumably a sinful amount.  

What is the oldest bottle of wine today?

Speyer Wine is the oldest wine in existence and is displayed in the Pfalz Historical Museum in Germany. 

It was found in the burial chamber of a Roman soldier in 1867 and featured a wax seal. 

Based on Atlas Obscura, the unopened bottle of wine known as Römerwein aus Speyer sat undisturbed for more than 1,693 years [2]. 

What is the oldest winery in the world? 

Based on Culture Trip, the oldest winery in the world is the Areni-1 winery, which started way back 6100 years.

Archaeologists found fermentation vats, storage jars, pottery shreds, and wine presses. Aside from the equipment, there were remnants of grape seeds, prunes, and pressed grapes. 

Final Thoughts 

Winemaking has been a part of the world’s economy since ancient times and has helped spread ideas and cultures. 

The rich history of winemaking way back to 7000 BC has reached modern winemaking, where humble grapes turned into incredible wines. 

While most distilleries no longer use traditional wine production, we owe the ancient vintners the bottles of wine we enjoy today. 

References:

  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/oldest-winemaking-grapes-georgia-archaeology 
  2. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/worlds-oldest-wine-speyer-bottle 

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