The history of wine goes back to 7000 BC in China where the first evidence of its consumption has been found. Over the centuries, the consumption of wine seemed to have spread from China into Georgia, Iran, and then to Greece by 4500 BC. The earliest evidence of wine production occurred in Armenia around 4100 BC and wine has been a part of every major culture in Asia, Africa, and Europe ever since.
Of interest for many wine historians is the types of grapes that were used in making wine during the height of the Roman Empire. At the time Jesus walked the earth, winemaking was already a well-established in Europe and the Middle East.
2,000 years ago, Rome dominated Europe, Northern Africa, Judea, and Palestine. In addition to being in military control, they also spread their civilization to this part of the world as well. This is most noted in the system of roads and aqueducts which had a major impact in building towns and linking all parts of this world to Rome.
Viticulture was also dominated by Rome, who acquired it along with many other aspects from the previous Greek domination of the region. Greek influence into the Etruscan era that pre-dated the rise of Rome shows that the area of Tuscany was using winemaking techniques back in 800 BC. The grapes brought in by the Greeks replaced many of the wild grapes growing in the region, at least for winemaking use.
As the Roman Republic, which became an empire, grew to dominate the Italian peninsula, they took over the Greek-controlled vineyards and wineries in Tuscany and along the southern coast. By the time Jesus was born, Rome was dominating winemaking by controlling most of the areas where it was produced.
The grapes used in the creation of most wine during this era came from what is now modern Greece, used to supplant wild grapes that were growing in the Italian peninsula. The grand cru vineyards near Rome created the famed Opimiam vintage, a high-quality wine grown from grapes that were a mixture of Greek and Roman origin. The wine itself was sweet, strong, and in high demand over the next few centuries.
In Greece, the variations of grapes included agiogitiko, athiri, meshofilero, limnio, and hynomavro to name a few. The Greeks preferred their wine sweet mostly because they mixed it with water. In Judea and Palestine, the grapes were mostly marawi, hamdani, and jandali white grapes that were mostly indigenous to the area. It appears that the Greek or Roman influence did not including bringing vineyards to the region. So, the wine that was created 2,000 years ago in the area had its own unique flavor which still exists in some of the wineries today.
Modern grapes that are found in Italy, Greece, and many parts of Europe that include France have changed relatively little over the past 2,000 years. While there are variations and different types of grapes, the basic flavor and texture of the wine has remained relatively the same.
By: Stephanie Cara