Archeological Evidence Suggests Winemaking is Over Twelve Thousand Years Old

The ancient grape pips found throughout France suggest that wine making is old; not as old as dirt but it’s old. Discovering these fossils dispels the notion that the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans were the first to cultivate wild grape vines. No one knows for sure when ancient wine making actually began, but archeological evidence suggests that the Celts were making wine around Lake Geneva over twelve thousand years ago.

The ancient Romans are considered the masters of wine making. The Roman Empire had a profound effect on the early technology associated with wine making. As the Empire expanded into Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Italy, drinking wine became democratic and it was available to everyone. Slaves, peasants, and the aristocrats drank wine and considered it a necessity.

Romans spread their wine making technology throughout the Empire so colonists and soldiers would have a steady supply of this “Nectar of the Gods.” Wine making and drinking was not new to the native tribes living in Gaul and Germania when Roman merchants visited these regions to trade, but these merchants are responsible for turning wine growing into an early economic enterprise.

Ancient Wine Making Had Medicinal as well as Religious Qualities

The ancient art of wine making involved a manual pressing technique that was done immediately after harvesting. The juice from this foot treading process was considered medicinal quality and was used by a certain social group. The juice obtained from normal pressing was usually coarser and was considered more tannic especially if it was the second or third pressing. That juice was used to make a low quality wine and it was available for the masses to drink everyday.

The Romans loved sweet wines that were very alcoholic. Some early writers said that bringing some of these wines close enough to flame would start a fire. These early wines were so potent that they were diluted with salty seawater or regular warm water. The Romans discovered that aging their wine in amphora vessels increased not only its taste but its value. Some early wines were aged for a year while others like Falernian were aged for ten years. White wines from Surrentine were aged for twenty-five years. Wines were labeled “new” if they were aged for at least a year and “old” if they had been aged longer than a year.

Aroma was very important in ancient wine making. Herbs like thyme and lavender were planted in the vineyards to enhance the aroma or the amphorae were aged in smoke filled chambers to add a smoky flavor to the wine.

The quality of the wine depended on the amount of grape juice and how diluted it was before it was served. The best quality wine was reserved for the nobility of Rome while other less noble social groups drank a mixture called Posca which was sour wine and water that had not turned into vinegar, but was on its way. Posca was less acidic than vinegar and still had some of the aroma and texture of wine. Slaves drank Lora which was made by soaking grape skin pomace twice in water and then pressing them a third time. Both Posca and Lora were red wines since the white grapes were used to produce wine for upper class Romans.

As the Romans assimilated more cultures they discovered two religious groups that viewed wine in a very positive way. Christianity and Judaism incorporated and condone the use of wine in their biblical texts. The importance and the influence of wine on the Christian church is unmistakable. The church dominated the world of wine through the Renaissance.

Ancient wine making techniques are still used in the wine world today. The Romans set the trend for quality as well as for quantity. Modern vineyards around the world have the spirit of Roman wine running through their DNA.