Wine is an alcohol-based beverage made from grapes, and depending on your definition of “made out of grapes” there’s at most two distinct inventions that it. China is the place to find the oldest record of grapes used in wine recipes using honey and fermented rice. It is believed to date back around 9000 years. Two millennia later, the beginnings of the European winemaking tradition were sown in the west of Asia.
The archaeological evidence for winemaking is difficult to find due to the fact that the presence of grape seeds and skins of fruit, stems, and/or stalks at an archaeological site does not necessarily mean that the site is producing of wine. Two main ways of identifying winemaking that are accepted by scholars are the presence of domesticated animals and evidence of grape processing.
Hermaphroditic plants are the primary change that took place during the domestication of grapes. This means that grapes that are grown in domestic settings are able to self-pollinate. Vintners are free to pick the traits they like and, as long as they keep their grapes on the same hill they do not have to be concerned about cross-pollinating changing the grapes for the following year.
The discovery of portions of the plant outside its home territory is recognized as evidence of domestication. The wild ancestor to the European wild grape (Vitis vinifera sylvestris) is indigenous to the west of Eurasia between the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. Hence, the presence of V. vinifera outside of its usual range is believed to be evidence of domestication.
China is the place where the actual story of wine derived by grapes began. The radiocarbon residues of pottery shards dates to about 7700-6600 BCE from the Chinese early Neolithic site of Jiahu have been recognized as coming from a fermented beverage composed of honey, rice, and fruits.
The presence of fruits was identified through the tartaric acid/tartrate residues on the bottom of the Jar. (These are common to anyone who consumes wine from corked bottles in the present.) Researchers could not identify the specific species tartrate between longyan, grape cornelian cherry, and hawthorn. Hawthorn seeds and grape seed have been found at Jiahu. Textual evidence for the use of grapes–although not specifically grape wine–date to the Zhou Dynasty circa 1046-221 BCE.
Grapes used in wine recipes should be wild grape varieties that are native to China and not imported from western Asia. There are between 40 and 50 wild grape varieties in China. China was first introduced to the European grape in the second century BCE together with the other Silk Road imports.
Western Asia Wine History
The oldest record of winemaking in western Asia originates from Hajji Firuz (Iran), a Neolithic period location. It dates to 5400-5000 BCE. A layer of sediment found at the bottom of an amphora was discovered to be a mix of tannin and tartrate crystals. Five additional jars were also discovered at the site, each holding about nine liters worth of liquid.
Sites outside of the normal grapes’ range with early evidence of grapes and processing of grapes in western Asia include Lake Zeriber, Iran, where grape pollen was discovered in a soil core just about 4300 cal BCE. Kurban Hoyuk, southeastern Turkey was found with fragments of burned fruit skins in the late sixth to the early fifth millennia BCE.
In the early days of the dynastic period in Egypt, wine imports from west Asia were identified. The tomb of the Scorpion King, dating back to 3150 BCE included 700 jars that were believed to be filled with wines from the Levant and later transported to Egypt.
In Europe, wild grape (Vitis vinifera) has been identified in relatively ancient settings, such as Franchthi Cave, Greece (12,000 years ago), and Balma de l’Abeurador, France (about 10,000 years in the past). The evidence for domesticated grapes is older than that of East Asia, although similar to the western Asia grapes.
Excavations carried out at Dikili Tash, a Greek site that has been discovered, revealed grape pipsas well as empty skins. This is the earliest evidence of the Aegean’s grape pips to date back to 4400-4000 BCE. A clay cup that contained grape juice and grape pressings is thought to represent evidence for the fermentation process in Dikili Tash. There are grapevines as well as also wood.
An Armenian wine production facility was discovered in the Areni-1 Cave Complex. It is believed to be dating back to around 4000 BCE. It has an area for crushing grapes as well as a method to move the liquid that was crushed to storage containers. It could also contain evidence of the process of fermentation of red wine.
In the Roman period, and likely spread by Roman expansion, viticulture reached all of the Mediterranean area and western Europe The wine industry became an extremely valuable economic and cultural commodity. At the close of the 1st century BCE it was an important commercial and speculative product.
The Long Road to New-World Wines
Leif Erikson, an Icelandic explorator, found North America around 1000 CE. He named the new territory Vinland (alternately identified as Winland) because of the abundance of wild grapevines which grew there. Unsurprisingly, when European settlers began arriving in the New World about 600 years later, the prolific possibilities for viticulture were evident.
Unfortunately and with the distinct exception of Vitis Rotundifolia (known by its colloquial name muscadine or “Scuppernong” grape) that thrived primarily in the South The majority of native grapes that settlers initially encountered were not suitable to producing a delicious or even potable wine. To make even modest amounts of wine, it required several years and numerous attempts.
“The fight to create wine in the New World yield wine such as they had known in Europe began by the first settlers, and was persisted in for generations but ended with defeat time and time,” writes award-winning culinary author and professor of English Emeritus, Pomona College, Thomas Pinney. The attempt to cultivate European grape varieties to make wine was among the most frustrating and eagerly awaited endeavors of all time in American history. The winemaking process in the eastern region of the country was made possible once it became apparent that only native varieties of grapes were capable of surviving against the harsh climate and the endemic illnesses of North America.
Pinney notes it wasn’t until the 19th century, when the colonization of California that the landscape changed for American viticulture. California’s mild climate permitted European grapes to flourish and helped in the creation of an industry. He credits the success of hybrid grapes, the process of trial and error, as well as the growth of winemaking beyond California to a wider variety of challenges.
“By the beginning in the 20th century, the growing of grapes and the making of wines across the United States was a proven and vital economic activity” he writes. After more than three centuries of trials and defeats, as well as renewed efforts, the goals of the first colonists finally fulfilled.
20th-Century Wine Innovations
Wines are fermented using yeast. Prior to the mid 20th century, this method was dependent on the natural yeasts. These fermentations were often inconsistent and could lead to loss of quality due to their slow working time.
In the 1950s and 1960s pure starter strains from the Mediterranean Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain were introduced. This was a major breakthrough in winemaking. The S. cerevisiae strains were utilized in commercial wine fermentations. There are hundreds of commercial yeast starters for wine available across the globe which allow the production of wine with consistent quality.
Another game-changing–and controversial–innovation that had a huge impact on 20th-century winemaking was the introduction of screw-cap tops and synthetic corks. These bottle stoppers challenge natural cork’s dominant position that dates back to ancient Egyptian times.
In the 1950s, screw-top wine bottles were initially associated with “value-oriented wines in jugs,” reports Allison Aubrey who is a James Beard broadcast award-winning journalist. It was hard to break the image of gallon jugs of inexpensive fruit-flavored wine and this picture. Corks, which are natural substances, were not perfect. Corks that weren’t properly sealed could be leaking, dried out and eventually crumble. Cork taint and cork taint refer to terms that describe wine that has been spoilt regardless of the seal used to seal the bottle.
Australia is among the world’s leading wine producers has begun to think about the cork in the 1980s. Synthetic corks and the advancement of screw-top technology has helped advance the high-end market for wines. While some wine drinkers prefer cork however, the majority of wine lovers embrace this new technology. Recent innovations include bagged and boxed wines.
Fast Facts: 21st Century U.S. Wine Statistics
As of February 2019 there were 10,043 wineries operating in the United States.
Highest production by state at 4,425 wineries California produces more than 85% of the wines within the U.S. It is followed by Washington (776 wineries), Oregon (773), New York (396), Texas (323), and Virginia (280).
Percentage of adults Americans who drink wine: 40 percent of the drinking population. This amounts to 240 million.
U.S. wine drinkers by gender: 56% male, 44 percent female
U.S. wine drinkers by age group age group: Aged (age 73)+ 5 percent and Baby Boomers (54-62) and 34 percent GenX (42-53), 34 percent Gen. X (19 19% to percent) GenX (19% to 19%); Generation Y (22-41) and 36% I-Generation (21-24) I-Generation (21-24), 6 percentage
Per capita consumption of wine 11 liters of wine per person each year that’s 2.94 gallons
21st Century Wine Technology
One of the 21st Century winemaking’s most exciting breakthroughs is the micro-oxygenation process. This technique, commonly known as “mox” can reduce the chance of ageing red wines using traditional methods, which have wine stored in cork-sealed containers.
The tiny pores of cork let the air in to permeate the wine as it matures. This process “softens” natural tannins and lets the wine discover its distinctive flavor profile, typically for long durations. Mox mimics natural aging by incrementally introducing tiny amounts of oxygen into wine as it’s being made. The wines that result are typically more stable, smoother and have less unpleasant and unpleasant notes.
DNA sequencing, a second recent development, has enabled scientists to study the expansion of S. cerevisiae within commercial wines over the last 50 years, comparing and contrasting different regions and, according to researchers it could lead to enhanced wines in the future.
Cuba, a captivating country known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes, has long been a popular destination...