Wine is a highly popular alcoholic beverage, and it’s been around for thousands of years. If you’re curious about its origins and how it has changed from the ancient world to the present day, this article is for you.
Here, we talk about what experts believe to be the origin of wine and what innovations had the biggest impact on the wines that we know today. Read on!
The First Wine
While people automatically think of France, Italy, and Spain when talking about wine, the history of wine didn’t begin in those countries. Archeological records show that wine was first produced around 7,000 BC in China, followed by Armenia in 6100 BC and Georgia in 6000 BC. Evidence also suggests that winemaking existed in ancient Egypt, Greece, Israel, and Sicily.
Ancient, Old, and New World Wines
When talking about wine history, you should be familiar with the differences between ancient, old, and new world wines:
Ancient World Wine
These wines are those that originated from China, Armenia, Iran, and Egypt. They’re the world’s first wines made by fermenting grape juice into alcohol.
Old World Wine
These wines come from European regions traditionally associated with wine and winemaking. They also include regions in the Mediterranean and the Middle East — viniculture first took off in these regions.
Old world wine is produced using Vitis vinifera (common grapevine), which is native to the Mediterranean region.
New World Wine
New world wines are those that don’t from ancient and old world wine regions. These include New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and Canada. In the US, California, Oregon, and Washington are the most popular wine-producing states.
Vitis vinifera is also used in new world wine production, although producers have made various adaptations to help the grapevine grow successfully in varying climates.
New World Wines and Innovations
The journey to introducing wine to the new world wasn’t an easy one. Producers struggled to make wine that was similar to what they had in Europe, even though the earliest new world settlers tried their best to grow European grape varieties on North American soil.
Eventually, winemakers realized that only the native grape varieties could survive the climate of the region. In California, American viticulture flourished because of the region’s mild climate. New hybrid grapes were developed, and wine growing became an important part of economic activity.
In the 1950s and 1960s, winemaking saw a huge breakthrough. Previously, wines were fermented with naturally occurring yeast. The results were inconsistent. This was a problem until the introduction of “brewer’s yeast” — these pure starter strains allowed for more consistent wine production quality.
One controversial innovation in wine production is the use of screw-cap tops and synthetic corks. Many wine aficionados wouldn’t accept anything other than cork. However, the innovation gradually made headway as Australia gained footing in the high-end wine market with its improved screw-top technology.
In the 21st Century, winemaking has experienced yet another innovation in the form of micro-oxygenation, or mox. This process reduces the risks associated with aging red wine using traditional methods, such as cellaring them in cork-sealed bottles.
With natural wine aging, tiny pores in the cork allow enough oxygen to permeate the wine, letting the beverage’s natural flavor develop. Mox mimics natural aging — which takes long periods — by introducing oxygen to wine in increasing amounts as it’s being made. Using this process, producers make wines that are smoother and have more stable colors. They also have less unpleasant and harsh notes.
Looking ahead, producers are looking into DNA sequencing to trace the spread of brewer’s yeast in commercial wines for the last 50 years. The goal is to compare geographic regions and use the data they collect to improve the wines of the future.