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The History Of Making Wine

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes and based on your definition of “made from grapes” there are at least two distinct inventions that it. China is the place to find the oldest evidence of grapes being used in wine recipes with honey and fermented rice. It goes back about to 9,000 years ago. The seeds of the European winemaking culture were planted in Asia two thousand years later.
Archaeological Evidence

Evidence of winemaking from archaeology is a little difficult to locate because the presence of grape seeds or fruit skins or stalks, as well as stems and/or stalks at an archaeological site does not necessarily mean that the site is producing of wine. Two main ways of identifying winemaking that are accepted by scholars are the presence of domesticated animals and evidence of processing grapes.

Hermaphroditic plants were the main mutation that occurred during the domestication process of grapes. This means that the grapes grown in domestic environments are able to self-pollinate. Therefore, vintners have the ability to select traits they like and, so long as the vines are kept on the same hill, they need not worry about cross-pollination changing next year’s crop of grapes.

The discovery of areas of the plant that are not within its natural habitat is recognized as evidence of domestication. The wild parent of European wild grape Vitis vinifera Sylvestris can be found in western Eurasia located between the Mediterranean Sea and Caspian Seas. Domestication is further proven by the existence of V. vinifera beyond its normal range.

Chinese Wines

China is where the actual story of wine made from grapes starts. Radiocarbon residues discovered on the shards of pottery found at Jiahu’s Chinese Neolithic site in the period 7000-6600 BCE are believed to be the fermentation of a beverage that contained honey, rice, and fruit.

The presence of fruits was confirmed by the tartaric acid/tartrate remnants in the bottom of a Jar. These remnants are well-known to wine drinkers who’ve had wine from corked bottles. Researchers have been unable to narrow down the species tartrate between grape, longyan, hawthorn, and cornelian cherry. Both hawthorn and grape seeds were discovered in Jiahu. Textual evidence for the use of grapes–although not specifically grape wine–dates back to the Zhou Dynasty circa 1046-221 BCE.

Grapes used in wine recipes must come from wild grape varieties that are native to China and not imported from Western Asia. There are about 40 to 50 wild grape varieties in China. The European grape was introduced to China in the second century BCE, along with other Silk Road imports.

Western Asia Wines

The oldest evidence of winemaking in western Asia originates from Hajji Firuz (Iran), an Neolithic period location. It dates back to 5400-5000 BCE. A deposit of sediment found at the bottom of an amphora proved to be a mix of tartrate and tannin crystals. Five more jars were found at the site, each containing around nine liters of liquid.

Sites that aren’t in the normal range of grapes, but exhibit evidence of processing grapes in west Asia includes Lake Zeriber in Iran. In this area, grape pollen was found in a soil core in the 4300-cal BC period. Fragments of charred fruit skins were discovered in Kurban Hoyuk in southeastern Turkey from the end of the sixth millennium to the middle fifth millennium BCE.

Wine imports from the western part of Asia is known from the beginning of the dynastic period in Egypt. A tomb of the Scorpion King (dated around 3150 BCE) contained 700 jars believed to be filled with wine in the Levant and transported to Egypt.

European Winemaking

In Europe In Europe, wild grape (Vitis vinifera) has been identified in relatively ancient settings including Franchthi Cave, Greece (12,000 years ago) as well as Balma de l’Abeurador, France (about 10,000 years earlier). The evidence for domesticated grapes is later than that of East Asia, although similar to those of west Asia grapes.

Excavations on an archaeological site in Greece known as Dikili Tash have revealed grape pips and empty skins, which have been dated directly to 4400-4000 BCE the earliest evidence to be found from the Aegean. Evidence of fermentation in Dikili Tash can be found in a cup of clay that has grape juice and grape pressings. There have been grapevines and also wood.

A wine production installation dated to 4000 BCE has been identified at the site of Areni-1 Cave Complex in Armenia comprising an area for crushing grapes, a method of moving the crushed liquid into storage jars, and, possibly, evidence of the fermentation of red wine.

Viniculture was a valuable economic and cultural product. It spread rapidly during the Roman period and most likely due to Roman expansion. In the 1st century BCE the wine had developed into an important commercial and speculative product.

Wine History – The Long Road to New-World Wines

Leif Erikson, an Icelandic explorer, found North America around 1000 CE. He named the new region Vinland (alternately identified as Winland) due to the abundant wild grapevines that grew there. Unsurprisingly, when European arrivals started moving into the New World about 600 years later, the prolific possibilities for viticulture were evident.

Except for Vitis rotundifolia which was primarily found in the South, most indigenous grape varieties that colonists encountered weren’t suitable for making delicious , or even drinkable wine. It took many attempts, many years and the introduction of better grapes for colonists to attain even modest success in winemaking.

Thomas Pinney, Pomona College Emeritus, award-winning chef and writer, writes that the struggle to make New World wine of the comparable quality to European wines was started by the first settlers. He also wrote that the struggle was not lost over the subsequent generations. “Few things can have been more eagerly explored and completely frustrated in American history than the enterprise of growing European grape varieties for the making of wine. The winemaking process in the eastern region of the country became feasible after it was realized that only native varieties of grapes could withstand the extreme climate and the endemic diseases that plagued North America.

Pinney says it wasn’t until the mid-19th century when California was colonized by California that the landscape changed for American viticulture. European grapes thrived in California’s mild climate and sparked an industry. He credits the successes of hybrid grapes, the process of trial and error, as well as the growth of winemaking outside of California to a wide array of challenges.

“By the turn of the 20th century, the growing of grapes and making wine across the United States was a proven and vital economic activity” he writes. “The expectations of the first settlers, after nearly three centuries of struggle, defeat, and renewed determination, were at last realized.”

Wine Innovations for the 20th Century

The fermentation of wine is done with yeast. Up until the middle of the 20th century, this process was dependent on the natural yeasts. These fermentations are often incongruous and could lead to spoilage due to their slow working time.

One of the most important developments in the field of winemaking was the introduction starter strains that were pure of Mediterranean Saccharomyces cerevisiae (commonly known as brewer’s yeast) in the 1950s and 1960s. Since that time commercial wine fermentations have included these S. cerevisiae strains, and there are now hundreds of commercial wine yeast starter cultures around the globe, which ensures consistent wine production quality.

Another game-changing–and controversial–innovation that had a huge impact on 20th-century winemaking was the introduction of screw-cap tops and synthetic corks. These bottle stoppers challenge the natural cork’s dominant position, which dates to the ancient Egyptian times.

When they first came out in the 1950s screw-top wine bottles were initially thought of as “value-oriented wines in jugs,” reports Allison Aubrey an James Beard broadcast award-winning journalist. It was hard to break the association between gallon bottles of cheap fruit-flavored wine and this picture. But corks, being naturally produced aren’t the perfect product. Corks that were not properly sealed might leak, dry out, and then crumble. (In fact, “corked” or “cork taint” are terms that refer to spoiled wine–whether the bottle was sealed with a cork seal or not.)

Australia is among the top wine producers in the world, began to rethink the cork in the 1980s. Synthetic corks and the advancement of screw-top technology has helped make progress in the high-end market for wines. While some oenophiles will not accept anything other than cork, most wine lovers are now embracing the latest technologies. Boxed and bagged wine, as well as recent developments, are becoming increasingly popular too.

Fast facts: 21st Century U.S. Wine Statistics

Wineries located in the United States: 10,043 as of February 2019
California is the state with the most production per state, with 4,425 wineries. This is followed by Washington (776), Oregon (773), New York (396), Texas (333) and Virginia (280).
The proportion of Americans who drink wine is 40%. This amounts to 240,000,000 people.
U.S. wine consumers by gender: 56% female and 44% male
U.S. wine drinkers by age group: Mature (age 73)+, 5% baby boomers (54-62) and 34 percent GenX (42-53) 34%; Gen. Generation X (19% to 19%) and Millennials (22-41) and 36% I-Generation (21-24) 66 percentage
Consumption of wine per capita Per capita: 11. liters/person each year or 2.94 Gallons

21st Century Wine Technology

One of 21st Century winemaking’s most exciting innovations is the micro-oxygenation process. This method, also called “mox”, reduces the risk of aging red wines by using traditional methods, which have red wines stored in cork-sealed containers.

Tiny pores in cork let in sufficient oxygen to penetrate the wine’s aging process. The process “softens” the tannins naturally present and allows the wine’s distinctive flavor develop, typically over long periods of time. Mox mimics natural aging by incrementally introducing small amounts of oxygen to wine as it’s being made. The resultant wines are smoother, more robust in color and contain less harsh and unpleasant flavors.

DNA sequencing, another recent trend, has allowed researchers to track the expansion of S. cerevisiae within commercial wine over the last 50 years, and compare and contrasting different geographical regions as well as, according to research it could lead to improved wines in the future.