With the temperature outside beginning to drop, and holiday season right around the corner, many of us will likely toast a glass of wine with our family and loved ones to celebrate! If you find yourself wondering where your glass of that delicious ‘nectar of the gods’ comes from, look no further than this blog from 7Cellars! Today, you will take a journey dating back to 7,000 years B.C. to find out just what types of wine our ancestors were brewing up! So sit back, buckle in, and get ready to discover the mysteries of the history of wine!
The Earliest Discovery Of Fermented Beverages
Right before barley was used for beer and grape wine started to appear in the Middle East, Chinese villagers in Jiahu, a village in China’s Henan province, were making wine as early as 7,000 B.C. In a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Patrick McGovern at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia and his colleagues evaluated shards of 16 pieces of pottery from this exact village; discovering one of the earliest known cases of fermented alcohol known to man!
Patrick’s team used a wide variety of technologically advanced tools, including mass spectrometry, chromatography, and isotope analysis to analyze sections from the bottom and sides of vessels that held liquid nearly than 9,000 years ago. The team looked for key indicators of fermentation and tartaric acid, an organic acid present in grape wine. Their tests revealed that 13 of the 16 remnants came from containers that had held the same liquid, a “mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and a fruit,” the study shows.
They discovered that these rice wines contain herb, flower, and tree resins, and are very comparable to herbal drinks described in inscriptions from the Shang dynasty. “The fragrant aroma of the liquids inside the tightly lidded jars and vats, when their lids were first removed after some 3,000 years, suggests that they indeed represented Shang and Western Zhou fermented beverages,” McGovern stated.
How The Chinese Made Fermented Rice Wine
Similar to Andean communities today that are making chicha from maize, Chinese beverage-makers most likely chewed up rice kernels and spit the mash into a communal pot to brew with fruit. This ancient wine most likely got the majority of its sugars and flavors from the Chinese hawthorn fruit and wild grapes.
Ancient Armenia: The Birthplace Of Wineries
Close to the same time period as the ancient Chinese villagers making rice wine, early humans in the region around Armenia and Georgia were likely just starting to experiment with the common grape, Vitis vinifera. Discovered in 2007 by UCLA researchers near the village of Areni, archaeologists unearthed the earliest known wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says.
“This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production,” said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles. “For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years,” he said. This ancient winery suggests the Copper Age vintners made their wine using the primitive method of utilizing their feet to smash the grapes! Juice from the trampled grapes drained into a vat where it was left to ferment, Areshian explained. The wine was then stored in jars, as the cool, dry conditions of the cave were made for the perfect wine cellar!
Ancient Armenian Wine Making & Wine Drinking Rituals
As the identities of these ancient winemakers remain a mystery, it is understood that their wine drinking rituals involved ceremonies dedicated to the deceased. “Twenty burials have been identified around the wine-pressing installation. There was a cemetery, and the wine production in the cave was related to this ritualistic aspect,” Areshian speculated. Specifically, wine drinking cups were found inside and around the graves.
Onwards To Egypt: The Rise Of The Pharaohs
In May of 2009, Patrick Mcgovern and his team identified the first chemical evidence for ancient Egyptian fermented medicines dating back to 3,100 B.C. Contained in vessels from the 5,000-year-old tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I, these containers were spiked with grape wine imported from the Jordan River valley. The Egyptians knew that the active compounds in plants, like alkaloids and terpenoids, are best dissolved in an alcoholic medium, which is either consumed orally or applied onto the skin. The early Egyptians “were living in a world without modern synthetic medicines, and they were very aware of the benefits that natural additives can have—especially if dissolved into an alcoholic medium, like wine or beer,” which breaks down plant alkaloids, says McGovern.
As more pharaohs rose to power in ancient Egypt, they continued to make wine-like substances from red grapes for medicinal purposes. Due to the wine’s resemblance to blood, Egyptians would use it in many ceremonies for the deceased. During this time, the Egyptians would eventually come in contact with Jews, as well as the Phoenicians; but it would be the Phoenicians who would cultivate wine and begin to spread it around the world!
Pit-Stop In Northern Israel
In 2013, Archaeologists discovered a personal wine cellar in a palace that dates back to 1700 B.C. More than 500 gallons of wine were once stored in a room connected to this palace, located in modern-day northern Israel. These Israelites were infusing their wine with oils and resins from herbs, nuts, and wood including pistachio oil, cedar oil, cinnamon, honey, juniper, mint, and various berries.
Phoenicians Begin Trading Across The Mediterranean
From 1200 B.C. to 539 B.C., the Phoenicians begin to trade across the Mediterranean, including the Middle East (current day Israel) and stretching around the sea from North Africa to points in Greece and Italy. It was during their trading that they also brought with them wine, transported in ceramic jugs, as well as grapevines. During travels, the Phoenicians come in contact with the Jews, who began to use wine to mark religious ceremonies. We first hear the mention of wine in the book of Genesis, when, after the flood, Noah, drunk on wine, exposes himself to his sons.
The Greeks & Modern Wine Culture
The Greeks, having been taught about wine from the Phoenicians, started to perfect wine concoctions around 800 B.C. Many of the grapes grown in modern Greece are grown there exclusively, and are extremely similar or identical to the varieties grown in ancient times. The most popular modern Greek wine, a strongly aromatic white called retsina, is thought to be a carryover from the ancient practice of lining the wine jugs with tree resin, imparting a distinct flavor to the drink. For Greece, as wine increased in popularity it became a symbol for trade, religion, and health; as the Greeks even named a god, Dionysus, in the honor of wine!
As the Greek city-states begin to rise to power, they continued to colonize other land around the Mediterranean, travelling with wine and grape vines along the way. Sicily and southern Italy formed some of the earliest Greek colonies, and wine started to travel up the boot towards Rome!
Rome Conquers Greece
Around 146 B.C., Rome conquered Greece and took wine as their own! Similar to the Greeks, Romans named a god, Bacchus, in honor of wine and the grape, making it a central part of their everyday culture and traditions. Wine became an integral part of the Roman diet, and wine making started to be thought of as a business. Virtually all of the major wine-producing regions of Western Europe today were established during the Roman Imperial era! During the Roman Empire, societal norms began to shift as the production of alcohol increased, as widespread drunkenness and true alcoholism among the Romans began in the first century B.C. and reached its height in the first century A.D.
Wine-making technology advanced considerably during the time of the Roman Empire, as wine storage rooms were specially built, and smokehouses were developed to mimic aging. Additionally, barrels and glass bottles started to compete with terracotta amphora containers for storing and shipping. As the Roman Empire and their troops expanded across Europe, Romans planted grapevines in modern day France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, as well as a number of Central European nations.
The Roman Empire & Christianity
As the Roman Empire adopts the Catholic Church and Christianity, wine becomes a central part of the sacrament. Wine’s importance to Catholicism and Mass causes the Catholic Church to focus on wine cultivation and production. Monks in Italy and France begin working as vintners, and wine-making technology is perfected. As the Catholic Church grows across Europe, wine goes along with it!
7Cellars: A Commitment To The Global Legacy Of Wine Making Traditions
Here at 7Cellars Wines, we are prideful of our stake in the global history of wine, aiming to make an indefinite mark on the New World’s wine traditions! With exceptionally complex, yet approachable wines, we hope to demonstrate just how far wine-making has come from since 7,000 B.C.!
Created by Hall of Fame football legend and restaurateur, John Elway, 7Cellars wines are produced in collaboration with OneHope Winery, its wine-making team, and distributors. Similar to OneHope’s societal mission, 7Cellars makes an impact with every single bottle of our wine sold, helping to reunite veterans with a sense of purpose by allowing them to organize and lead disaster relief campaigns, such as Team Rubicon.
Contact 7Cellars Today And Make A Difference!
Want to drink delicious wines that are made for the modern day wine drinker? Want to make a difference in the lives of countless veterans? Pick up a bottle or two of 7Cellars wine from our website, or from a plethora of restaurants and stores across the country. On behalf of John and his winemaking team at 7Cellars, we’re positive that our wines will be some of the best you’ve ever tasted. To find out more about how we help veterans everyday, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!