For as long as there has been a recorded history of mankind, there has been a recorded history of wine. As soon as human beings gained an appreciation for the finer things in life, wine was considered one of those finer things.
According to multiple books, the European tradition of drinking wine probably began in the Classical Greece territory, when people drank it as part of their breakfast. In fact, a person who did not drink wine there during that period was considered a barbarian.
As for the oldest-known winery, it was discovered in the “Areni-1” cave in Vayots Dzor, Armenia. Believed to be traceable to 4100 B.C., the cave contained a wine press and fermentation vats. There also were jars, cups, seeds and vine cuttings.
About a thousand years later, the pharaohs rose to power in Egypt and began making a wine-like substance from red grapes. Recordings say that because of its resemblance to blood, it was used in various ceremonies.
About the same time, the Egyptians came in contact with the Phoenicians, and it would be the Phoenicians who’d cultivate the wine and begin to spread it around the world.
146 B.C. was a seminal year in the history of wine. That’s when Rome conquered Greece and the Romans took wine as their own. They created Bacchus, their own god of wine, and made wine a central part of their culture — just as the Greeks had done.
But they weren’t happy to merely emulate the Greeks. They built upon and formalized the Greeks’ farming and winemaking methods to the point that the concept of terroir was recognized for the first time, as were vintages.
The first famous vintage? 121 B.C.
As the Roman Empire expand across Europe, the troops and their followers planted vines in what that today are some of the wine world’s most famous countries: France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
So the next time you enjoy a bottle from one of those countries, thank the Romans — and toast one of mankind’s oldest beverages.