A Brief History of Wine - Happy International Wine Day! 🍷🌍

Did you know that every 25th May is International Wine Day? Take advantage of this week to celebrate your favorite wines from La Bodega! Today, we're taking you on a trip through the highlights of wine history, to learn some of the most fascinating facts about the rich history of wine as we know it 🍷

The Ancient Persian Fable of the Discovery of Wine

Armenian baring gift of wine to Darius the Great at Persepolis
This ancient fable tells of a princess in Persepolis who lost favor with the King. In despair, she drank spoiled grape juice to end her life. Instead of dying, she became intoxicated and passed out. Upon waking, she found her troubles seemed to have vanished. She shared her discovery with the King, who was so delighted with the fermented drink that he restored her to favor. This legend is associated with Shiraz, a city famed for its wine production.

Egyptian Wine: Quantity Over Quality

Detail from the Theban Tomb of Nakht, Egypt

Egypt started wine production in 3000BC. Hieroglyphics from this era suggest that binge drinking is not a modern problem. The Pharaohs appeared to prioritize quantity over quality in their consumption of alcohol. However, the wine the Egyptians drank was a distant relative to the wine we know today. They used white, pink, green, red, and dark blue grapes, as well as figs, palm, dates, and pomegranates.

From Ancient Greece to Rome

Dionysus (right) & Baccus (left), Greek & Roman Gods of Agriculture, Wine & Fertility

Fun fact - The Greeks were the first to discover the nutritional benefits of drinking wine! They valued wine highly and referred to it as “The juice of the Gods.” The Greeks used wine to achieve clarity of mind at symposiums, where they discussed philosophical subjects. Drunkenness was frowned upon, reflecting the deep cultural significance of wine. Soon after, the Romans took up wine. They are thought to be the first to use glass bottles for wine. The oldest bottle of wine to be found is dated to 325 AD.

France: The Battle of the Wines of 1224

 

Poem “La Bataille des Vins” | Detail from Très Riche Heures du Duc de Berry

After the fall of the Roman Empire, wine production was contiuned in Europe’s monasteries. The famed “Battle of Wines” happened in 1224, organized by French king Philip Augustus, wherein over 70 samples from France and across Europe, including Cyprus, Spain and the Mosel region, were tasted and judged by an English priest. In the end a sweet wine from Cyprus won the overall tasting. The story originates from a poem written by Henry d'Andeli in the same year.

17th Century: The Rise of Champagne, A Key Moment in Wine History

Le déjeuner d'huîtres: Jean-François de Troy (1735) ~ The first painting to depict the drinking of champagne | Christopher Merret

Contrary to popular belief, Champagne was not created by Frenchman Dom Pérignon but was researched 30 years earlier by English scientist Christopher Merrett. Champagne was much sweeter due to Russian preferences, while the trend towards drier Champagne began in 1846 when Perrier-Jouët exported unsweetened Champagne to England. This period also experienced developments in wine storage and transportation as Dom Pérignon thickened wine bottles to withstand the pressure in the bottles, as well as invented the wire collar to secure the cork, enhancing the bottle's durability.

19-20th Century Expansion to The New World

Throughout the 14-16 centuries, Europe barely had a supply of clean water and wine became a standard in the daily diet. however, after the spread of Phylloxera in late 1800 Europe, winemaking became difficult.

Wine finally gained its international acclaim, starting with production in the New World vineyards, particularly California, Australia & South America. There was an initial rejection to wine as it was thought to be “too European”, but this changed as the New World regions made some fine advancements in wine production, specifically in the barrels. Initially, French oak was preferred for flavor, but American oak provided a greater aroma and complexity that suited many wine drinkers up to this very day.

Now here we are in the modern day, finding ourselves enjoying wine as we know and love it. If it weren't for such a rich history of wines and important discoveries made by some of our ancestors, there's no way we would be enjoying the good drops that we do today.

We hope you were able to learn something new about wine today, and have a happy International Wine Day!