Civilization began its enduring romance with wine nearly 6000 years ago when Mesopotamian priests and royalty discovered the delightful taste and intoxicating effects of a unique beverage culled from fermented grapes. Why someone chose to drink the juice of crushed grapes that had fermented is, of course, a mystery. However, once members of the ancient upper crust found that wine did not make them ill like contaminated water did back then, these early tasters eagerly reproduced the conditions that transformed a pile of squashed, old grapes into something safe, great-tasting and seemingly magical to drink -- wine.
Wine as Currency?
A cuneiform tablet dated around 2030 BCE is considered the earliest documented evidence for the existence of wine. According to archeologists, this clay tablet discusses the transference of a receipt for an undisclosed number jugs of wine between an estate supervisor and the estate chef. Several thousand years later, the Egyptians declared wine to be the "food of the gods" and considered it worthy for use in purchasing or trading items with other civilizations.
"How much do you want for that silk shirt, King Imon-hotep?"
"No less than three jugs of your best wine, O Great King of Karnak."
Perfecting Wine-Making -- Leave It to the Greeks and Romans
Before the Fall of the Roman Empire, both Roman royalty and commoners probably spent a lot of their leisure time perfecting wine to avoid drinking dirty water and to reap its many physical and mental benefits. Romans may also have been the first people to store wine in ceramic jugs instead of stone or clay vessels, a discovery that dramatically improved the taste and potency.
The Greeks contributed heavily to viticulture by studying the soil composition of vineyards and associating certain soils with specific types of grapes. In addition, some exceptionally talented Greeks observed that minimizing vineyard yields created better quality wines that tasted richer and more intense. And you can thank the Greeks for inventing the practice of vine training for easier growing and cultivation.
"When men drink, they are rich, successful, win lawsuits, laugh and help their friends. Quick, bring me a jug of wine so that I may wet my mind and say clever things."
Christian Monks and European Wine Development
After praying and chanting all day, Christian monks used their spare time to establish wine-making traditions that are still practiced in Europe. Since one of the primary requirements of Mass was drinking wine, why not make it an extremely pleasant experience? These early, dedicated enthusiasts also learned to associate wine types with specific grape varieties and their regions where they are cultivated, an observation that ultimately led to the distinguished title of wine connoisseur.
Modern Wine Production and Culture
Wine production today retains some old-world techniques, but it is much more scientific in its approach to squeezing out the finest vintages from meticulously cultivated grapes. Wine culture has also diversified because we can now buy wine online from regional companies established all over the world. Further, wine lovers searching for specially aged wines they cannot find in local stores now have the ability to buy vintage wine online as well.