What Are The Origins of Winemaking?
Did you know the first wines in the world were made near the Black Sea and not France or Italy?
Read on to uncover the genealogy of winemaking from ancient times. Discover the differing histories and the chief characteristics of old-world wines as well as wine clubs where you can find them today.
Mapping Ancient Wines
The latest archaeological evidence places Georgia, a region in the Caucasus area of Eurasia between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, as the center of first winemaking around 6000 to 8000 BC. However, there’s evidence of a rice and grape mix of fermented juice dating back to 7000 BC in China too.
Archaeology draws conclusions that earlier production of wine was prevalent in Southern Caucasus regions including Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The oldest winery dating back to 4100 BC in Areni, a village in Armenia, is proof. The local grape here is called Areni, which might be the oldest grape varietal used for winemaking too. From there, winemaking traveled south and west with traders, explorers, and conquerors.
Neolithic finds from China that date back to the seventh millennium BC and Iran to 5000 BC are further proofs of ancient winemaking. Today, there are 1368 grapes around the world, with the highest number of varieties in Italy and France.
The word wine comes from the word ‘winam’, which is a Proto-Germanic word that comes from the Latin word ‘vinum’, meaning ‘grape’ or ‘vine’. However, differing etymology of the word is seen in Caucasian languages due to the spread of wine through these areas.
The spread of wine to the west is attributed to the Phoenicians who set out from Eastern Mediterranean coastal cities. There are pieces of evidence showing Byblos wine exported in the time of the Old Kingdom, apart from around the Mediterranean.
As the first traders of wine, Phoenicians protected their precious cargo from oxidizing by using layers of olive oil on top of seals made of pinewood and resins. However, Sardinia has contrasting historical records describing wines that were prevalent before the age of Phoenicians.
Romans on the other hand, planted vineyards along the garrison for production of wines locally, which have now evolved into the prominent wine regions today. Conversely, French monks made wine by aging it in caves since time immemorial. Moreover, wine was even made in India prior to 4 BC according to mentions in the writings of the emperor at the time.
Wine has various connotations within religious records too, especially for Catholics and Jews.
The Key Characteristics of Old World Wines
To understand old world wines, you need to get a grasp of its differences with new world wines. Old world wines refer to wines made from traditional winemaking along with grapes sourced from wine regions where vines have been grown for centuries. These regions include Bordeaux and Sicily whereas new world wine regions include California and Chile.
Typically, wine made in Europe is referred to as old world wines, but there’s more to it than geography. The best way to identify these wines is by their characteristics as listed below.
- Light body: While new world wines are often characterized by a full body, old world wines feature a lightweight, lean, and delicate body.
- Low alcohol: By checking the total ABV, you can confirm the low alcohol content of old world wines, which are less sugary than their new world competitors.
- High acidity: The cooler climates add to the high acidity of the old world wines.
- Less fruit: The high sugar in the warm and ripe new world wines are less fruity and more mineral in taste too.
Where To Find Old World Wines
Instead of spending hours scouring shops for old world wines, discover curated selections available from world-class wine clubs. You can even find great wine club gifts featuring bottles from these famed regions for loved ones and colleagues too.
Plonk Wine Club
An old-world wine from Saint-Bris in Burgundy, the 2018 Domaine Bersan Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc delivers a herbaceous and acidic taste with a dry light body. The alcohol content feels smooth at 12.5%. It’s priced at $28.75 per bottle.
A Macedonian wine with roots in Greeks and Roman winemaking, the award-winning Vranec from Grand National Blinkers is available for $19.99 with a Firstleaf wine club membership. This dark wine is defined by its medium-to-light body with high acidity and notes of leather.
For an old world favorite from the Rhône valley in France, try Elegant Beaujolais-Villages at $19.99 per bottle or $119.94 for six bottles for WSJwine members. This brilliant medium-bodied red wine is made from Gamay, offering high acidity that tastes of strawberries.
Now that you know winemaking didn’t begin in France or Italy, but in the Caucasus regions further east, you can start a fascinating journey into these unique wines. For light-bodied smooth wines with high acidity from prime wine growing regions, check out old world wines the next time you are shopping.