Many people all over America are most likely thankful for the existence of wine and all that it can offer. Wine has become a very popular drink among many people, and it appears that as the years go by, wine is becoming increasingly more popular than other alcohol drinks. Wine has started to seriously dominate the industry of alcoholic drinks with wine sales approaching about 62 billion annually and millennials consuming an estimated 42% of those those wines. It is no doubt that wine is becoming a big hit for the young adults of this generation, and evidence of this can be displayed through the fact that wine went from being the infamous, fancy dinner table item on dates, weddings, balls, galas, and more; however, now wines frequent the drug stores and grocery stores coming in an array of different packagings, from bottles to bags to boxes. The origin of how wine has come about and been enjoyed has definitely changed historically over time. Wine’s part in society and culture has evolved over many centuries depending on the society, culture, time period, and geographic location. Instead of focusing on wine and the part it plays in our culture today, we are going to take a step back into time and trace the beginnings of wine and where it all begin.
The Origins of Wine in China
The first known record of wine in China and possibly the world may have actually come around 9000 years ago in China, starting with what was known as a type of grain and millet wine. Fruit wine hadn’t become popular in China until much later, but archeological evidence demonstrates that wine methods were used in China specifically to make grain and rice wine which become a major popularity in China, incorporated in their daily life and rituals. Evidence of filtering processes and fermentation techniques in Ancient China shine light on a civilization that was just beginning to understand the power of wine, something no other part of the world had yet understood or began to even understand. One can trace the beginning of grape or fruit wine into China at around the Han Dynasty which was from around 206-220 BC or around the Three Kingdoms period from about 220 BC to 265 AD. Consumption of grape wine was quite limited at this time. The Han Dynasty saw a period in the growth of grape wines with wines being made in ceramic pots and many wealth people storing around tens of thousands of kilograms of wine. At this point though, grape wine was not seen as popular as rice wine for the reason that grapes were a seasonal item and didn’t have the ability to stay as fresh as grains. Many poets during the Tang Dynasty would write about wine and this poetry may have contributed to the rising popularity of wine. It became a quite valuable commodity in the Central Plains and wine was often offered in the capital city of Chang ’an from the western region. There has been immense evidence surrounding the importance of wine of China. Many bodies of the royal ancient Chinese families show that they were often buried with wine. Even with the poor, evidence of wine vessels being buried with people surfaced. Wine during that time period had become something highly accessible to chiefs based on the fact that they had control over the surplus of grain and therefore the production of wine, shifting the purpose of wine to be accessible and based on a class society. Around the Shang Dynasty though, strong evidence supported the idea that the people of the Shang Dynasty were actually heavy drinkers and it was this heavy drinking that caused many social diseases to come about, leading to the downfall of the Shang Dynasty. With the collapse of the Shang Dynasty, out came the Chou Dynasty who couldn’t necessarily forbid the abuse of wine, therefore changed the purpose of wine to be used for ritual purposes, shifting the purpose of wine from one that is purely agricultural and class based to one that was completely political. The people used wine for religious rites in which they would invite the blessings of the royal ancestors with wine and pray for good harvests or rain. They were also used in ceremonies to celebrate friendship and solidarity, becoming a huge part of social interaction and parties. The Chinese followed two different methods of wine production known as Li and Ch’an. The li method of wine production incorporated cooking germinated grain, mixing the grain up with steamed rice and water, and then allowing them to ferment until they became wine. The Ch’an method of wine production incorporated brewing the grain and using certain fragrant grasses that were mixed with steamed grain. It appears that the Chinese wine making methods and use of wine for social and political interactions may have been the driving force behind the rising popularity of wine in China, that would later spread worldwide, taking the rest of the world by storm.
The Movement of Wine throughout Asia & Africa
It is not known exactly when wine begin to make an appearance in other civilizations around China and how wine did exactly just that, but some researchers believe that wine had possibly moved out of Ancient to China to various other places through possibly what is known as the Silk Road. The silk road was down as an ancient trade network that connected through Asia, the Middle East, and southern Europe. The silk road was responsible for trading many items from silk to salt to wine, and it is thought that this road may have been the factor that contributed to wine spreading out of China. Soon enough grain wines and grape wines were constantly being shipped around the world. Ancient Egypt showed strong evidence of wine as well. Various tombs of ancient Egypt had scenes of winemaking and production drawn on the walls. There are many different ideas of how wine culture was in Ancient Egypt and how the Egyptians perceived wine. It appears that for the most part, wine was always bright red and perceived as having a resemblance to blood. One of the most precious drinks of ancient Egypt known as Shedeh was actually discovered to be a red wine and not fermented from the pomegranate fruit as people once thought. The Phoenicians helped greatly in distributing wine and making it quite popular within the Middle East. They offered extensive technology and wine making production built upon the Chinese wine and passed along such new concepts and ideas to the Middle East where wine also played a part in the society at the time. Although the origin of wine and fermentation can be rooted to China, a lot of the production techniques utilized during that time are actually not in use today at all. Majority of modern wine production can be traced back to Ancient Greece who expanded on the concepts of wine as they became exposed to it via the Silk Road and from there implemented new ideas of wine production and techniques more similar to what we practice now for wine production. These wine techniques made its way over to the Middle East. Herodotus, who was a Greek Historian, wrote about the impact of wine in Ancient Persia, describing the Persians as being very fond of wine and drinking it in very large quantities. Lebanon is considered to be among the oldest sites of wine production. Wine became quite popular throughout the Middle East and many khalifas would drink wine during social and private events. The Fatimid and Mamluk governments encouraged producing wine for sacramental and medicinal uses and used wine as an important item for trade throughout the Mediterranean. It became an important drink in religion as well being produced by the Zoroastrians in Persia and Christian monasteries. It wasn’t long until around the 14th century, wine became to be of extreme popularity in Europe
Wine Moving through Medieval Europe
Wine soon became a very important part of European culture and daily life. It was quite common in Medieval Europe for high class royalty to drink wine. It became a very recognizable symbol of wealth and royalty, a commodity of limited accessibility in Europe while also becoming increasingly widespread and well known. It became extremely important to the Catholic masses who need wine for celebration and worked hard to ensure that there was always a supply ready to go. Soon enough Benedictine Monks became the largest producers of wine in Europe in countries such as Germany and France. Other religious groups begin to take part in wine production as they begun to realize the prominent role wine begin to play in the culture of Medieval Europe. The Cisterians, Templars, and Carmelites were few of the many groups that begun to follow in the Benedictine Monk’s footsteps, creating wine vineyards and mass producing wine for the rest of Europe to enjoy. Europe became notable for many wines that are known and loved today such as the riesling wine, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, pinot girgio, moscato wine, and more! Generation after generation, more vineyards begun being planted all over various regions of Europe, resulting in many diverse grapes and wine varieties coming about. Some notable wine regions established in Europe that are still well known today include the regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, Piedmont Italy, Champagne France, Mosel Germany, Tuscany Italy, La Rioja, Spain, and many more!
The Spread of Wine to America and the New World
Wine was first introduced in Mexico through a Spanish conquistador who was aiming to provide the necessities of a Holy Catholic Eucharist. Many immigrants begun to import wine in great amounts, sending in wine from France, Germany, Italy, and more. Mexico soon became one of the top producers of wine in the 16th century; however, due to competitive climate, a Spanish king ruled to halt the production of wine and vineyards in Mexico. Wine was introduced to America through the fact that, the Europeans who settled in America begun to bring and mass produce wine with them. When Europe hit a devastating phylloxera blight in the 19th century, many people living in America realized that Native American vines were actually immune to such pests, and as result wine production boomed in America with the invention of a French-American hybrid grape. Various parts of American yielded the perfect climate for the growth of certain wine grapes and it is through this that the possibility of vineyards and wine production in America really took off. Places such as California, Washington, and other states set up large quantities of vineyards and still to this day, a lot of modern wine production can be attributed to these vineyards. California is home to the largest and most notable wine industries in all of America and it continues to excel in quality wine and winemaking.
Over time we have examined how wine has been used and distributed throughout the world. Wine is definitely not something new and has continued to be of popularity around the world from the time the concept was born to now. As generations moved and wine moved about through various geographical locations we have examined the various factors, societies, and cultures that have shaped how wine has been produced, used, and enjoyed. It isn’t hard to see with evidence, that just as today, wine was an ever popular and constantly evolving drink enjoyed by the high elite and the common people and used as a way to celebrate, rejoice, and bring people together. From then to now, even if the methods and ways in which wine has used have changed, there is no doubt that wine still had the same capabilities as it did back then to be the forefront of a changing and evolving world filled focused on bringing people and new ideas together, celebrating all that life has to offer, and being a symbol of the importance of social interactions and global connectedness.