Wine-making and drinking bears a long and varied past, steeped in both fact and supposition. From the Bible to ancient legends, tales of intoxication by ingesting fermented grapes abound. Some scientific evidence also traces the remnants of wine”s sediments to dated artifacts. In addition, fossilized vines add proof to the fact that the earliest humans recognized the pleasures of this tantalizing liquid.
Wine as an industry has much newer roots in the timeline with respected varieties and vintages coming from around the world. Deep interest in their origins, including a fascinating history of wine in France, leads novices and connoisseurs alike in search of the perfect taste. From the Americas to Europe and beyond, there certainly is a wine available for everyone.
The Earliest History of Wine
Many experts agree that wine probably dates to 6000 B.C. Mesopotamia (an area including Southern Iraq) apparently was a proper host for wild vines. The popularity of home growing eventually spread to Egypt, along the Nile Delta. Greece and Rome soon followed. Spain also played an important role in wine production, later introducing a skill for wine growing to Mexico and the United States.
As time progressed, the wealthy enjoyed the fruits of the vine while some rulers tried to keep this treasure a secret. Christianity swept parts of the world and monks made good use of their time developing the process. Detailed notes on climate and soil became the cornerstone of vineyard growth throughout today”s recognized regions. France emerged as a leader with some of the world”s most recognized wines.
History of French Wine
French wine history, like many other regions, began with an influx of trade ships and the migration of wine growers. Records reflect early imports into Gaul (France) by 600 B.C. However, interest was slow to develop, partially because of Italy”s resentment of competition. Monastery-run vineyards persevered and a revival began around 1200 A.D. Interim years experienced development of many familiar areas, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux and Burgundy. The first sparkling beverage also found its place here in Champagne.
Wine”s heyday continued for France until the American and French Revolutions. Vineyards transferred from churches and wealthy landowners to commoners. A lack of knowledge contributed to decline. Worse yet, American imports were arriving, bringing Phylloxera with them. Americanized vines were immune to this plant louse, but native European crops became widespread victims.
Grafting original vines into American root cuttings eventually resulted in new growth. While not accepted as an improved alternative, growers soon rebuilt their crops, gaining an edge over the competition.
Indeed, when other countries tried to “copy” their wines, France brought “Institut National des Appellations d”Origine” into law. This protected, to some extent, the integrity of regional names, including champagne.
Wine History in America
Early attempts to establish European grape varieties in America were met with no success. No one knew why areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts were so inhospitable. On the other hand, Pacific regions appeared to be more habitable. Under Church auspices, monks provided their expertise in wine growing. California”s Mission San Diego became the first established U.S. vineyard in 1769. Led by Father Junipero Serra, this was the starting point for a rise in wine”s popularity.
As others sought to expand their own vineyards, new European varieties continued to arrive. The wine market was small, however,; The popular masses had other taste preferences, particularly beer and whiskey. Advancement continued with ups and downs, including devastation from black rot and other disease. A century later, while Europe was losing its crops to the American-introduced louse, Phylloxera, another type of destruction was looming locally.
Prohibition began its rise in the early part of the Nineteenth century. Early laws prohibited sales of alcohol on Sunday in Indiana. Over the next few decades, a frenzy to go “dry” escalated, culminating with a full-scale ban in 1917 on production and sales.
Hobbyists and bootleggers found ways around Prohibition, while some vineyards carried on with production for sacramental purposes. The majority of production, however, died. By the 1933 National Repeal, the blooming wine industry was almost nonexistent.
A revival in table wines returned in the 1960s. Over the next two decades, a fondness for so-called “jug” wines declined in favor of tastes considered more pleasing to the palate. Today, Americans are still searching for “healthful” benefits as well as a perfect match for their meals.
California continues to reign as king of wine production, but every state can now boast of at least one vineyard.
Other Wine History Notes of Interest
The leading regions remain:
- United States.
Other countries of note, including Australia and Canada, have interesting backgrounds in wine development. For instance, the wine history of Canada begins with a critical eye to notable poor-tasting beverages. Today, this area is gaining an edge with investors and the public alike in growing niche markets. China may be another surprise for some, with its wine making history dating back to the 16th century B.C.