Apart from being a delicious addition to a meal, or just a relaxing pastime on a balmy evening, wine has an interesting history that dates back thousands of years. It is as enjoyable to learn about the intricacies of winemaking and wine superstitions as it is drinking it. Here are some fun facts I picked up while sipping a fruity Rosé.
No one really knows who first started making wine. Archaeologists have identified wine residue on ancient pottery. The oldest evidence seems to be from the Middle East and Russian borders, suggesting that the earliest known wine production was in Georgia around 6000BC. In addition, they also found notable sites in Greater Iran and Armenia dating back to 5000BC and 4100BC.
The oldest known winery is thought to have been in Areni-1 cave in the mountainous region of Vayots Dzor Province in Armenia. Here archaeologists found a wine-press, fermentation vats, jars and cups.
Ancient Egyptians were very wary of red wine. The ancient Kings such as Psamnetichus did not drink red wine, because they believed that the vines were grown from the blood of fallen warriors who had battled with the Gods. It was for this reason that men would get drunk from it and lose their senses. After drinking red wine they would be filled with the blood of their ancestors.
New World wines
Lacking an ancient history of wine making as with Europe and the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are considered ‘New World’ in the world of wines. Wine was first produced in South Africa’s Cape Province in 1659 by its Dutch founder Jan Van Riebeeck. Australia received it first cuttings from South Africa in 1788 via Australia’s ‘First Fleet’. The crop failed and a new attempt in the 19th century was more successful.
The art of wine making
- Oenology is the name given to the science of wine making. There are two basic categories for wine making.
- Still wine production which does not require carbonation.
- Sparkling wine production which does require carbonation.Champagne is a carbonated wine.
- Sparkling wine is named for its region, Asti in Italy, Cava in Spain and Cap Classique in South Africa for instance.
Threat to vineyards
In the 1800’s the Phylloxera Vine Louse almost obliterated the vineyards of Europe. The louse arrived in 1863 by ship from America, and started eating away at the vine roots. After great losses, as high as 75%, the Europeans realized that the American vines had developed a resistance to the louse, and that European vines needed to be grafted with American vines. Only the best vines were ‘converted’, and vineyards started producing quality instead of quantity, which had been the trend.
Farmers in South Africa face two threats to their crops. One is the cheeky oppportunistic baboon population that steal the fruit, but the other is the mealy bug. The farmers decided to fight nature with nature, and imported lady bugs which are natural predators of the mealy bugs.
Before cork was used to seal wine bottles, oil-soaked rags were stuffed into bottles. Corking bottles keeps the oxygen out. After uncorking a bottle you should let it ‘breath’ to release the flavors that were infused into the wine. Essences of the ingredients will escape. You will taste more fruit such as cherries and blackberries as the flavors expand.
Recent studies have shown that red wine in moderation is good for our health. The Greeks and Romans may have already known this, since it was common for them to drink wine with their meals. Red wine contains high levels of antioxidants that help our bodies prevent the oxidation process that damages our healthy cells. Research is showing that this could decrease our chances of heart disease, cancer and inflammation in the body.
My conclusion…. Bottoms up everyone!
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Author: Principle writer – Celeste Wilson
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