Thursday February 20th, 2020
Wine and Humanity
Wine has been and will be part of man’s own history and culture as one of the first creations of humanity. The ancient historians considered the origin of wine in Prehistory. We could think of wine as one of the first discoveries about chemical reactions, even if they were casual or spontaneous.
Throughout history and the different vicissitudes of civilizations wine has been involved in the development of them playing different roles within society:
- Festive element.
- Base of the religious cult.
- Medicine and antiseptic.
- Good of barter and trade.
- Accompanist in the discoveries of new lands.
- It was not until modern times when its use and object was, “simply”, the production of quality wine in itself.
The First Cultivation
As we said, historically there were accidental vinifications, however, you can put date of the first vine crop 7,000 years ago.
The geographical origin is established in the Caucasus area, a region with very suitable climate and relief. However, it is not until 3000 B.C. when the true birth of the wine is considered and it expands quickly towards east and west with the commercial routes of the time.
There was not much to wait for the “professionalization” of this crop because already in Ancient Egypt there existed what could be some kind of “classification” even if it was simple of the different vineyards and areas.
Imperial and Religious Expansion
The wine arrives in Greece in 700 B.C. and to Italy in 200 B.C. with the expansion of the Greek and Roman empires, respectively, the wine was conquering the nearby lands and bringing the cultivation to other areas such as Gaul, Hispania, the riverine areas of the Rhine and the Danube as navigable rivers and channel of the expansion of the territories.
From the beginning, the wine was closely related to the Mediterranean lifestyle and the diet of its inhabitants.
Wine and Religion
Wine has always played an important role in Western civilization for its religious and ritual uses. Christianity and the use of wine in a sacramental way played a key role in the expansion and importance of this drink.
Each civilization had its own deity linked to wine and was changing its name as the story progressed. For example:
- Egypt: Osiris was the heir of the kingdom and represented the good side, regeneration and fertility of the earth.
- Greece: Dionysus, God of the vine and wine. The cult to Dionysius, god of the wine and the inspiration, was celebrated by means of great processions of the geniuses of the Earth and the fecundity.
- Rome: Bacchus, the Romans, incorporated the Greek gods adapting them to their characteristics. God liberating (spiritually and mentally) property that was attributed to wine. The festivities in which he worshiped were called Bacchanalia.
During this time, there was a true expansion of the cultivation and consumption of wine since the passage of ownership of the land to the Church and the Kings marks a new stage in the development of wine.
The Church that needed wine for its cult and this was the guarantee of the preservation of the cultivation of the vine near monasteries and cathedrals. Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages improved crops with new techniques and studies and played a crucial role in the wine trade.
It is at this time that they begin to use wooden containers (equivalent to what are now barrels) for storage.
North Seas Expansion
Wine, always accompanying humanity in its historical journeys, during the High Middle Ages lived its expansion towards northern Europe.
The merchant ships and pirates set sail from France to Great Britain, Ireland and other countries sailing the western seas. The adventurous came, not only sailed seas but also all the navigable European rivers, that played an important role in commercial routes of the time.
During this period, wine was a necessity not a luxury and even its antiseptic power gave it relevance even in the medicine of the time
Jump to the New World
With the discovery of America, the cultivation of the vineyard is exported to different areas of America with European settlers. Of course, the wine had to accompany the man in his new territory and appease the thirst of the conquerors and their armies. More over to accompany the religious expansion equally.
- XVII AND XVIII
At the end of the 17th century new demands appeared in the market, which meant the need to improve the winemaking techniques.
That’s when the concept of “Great Wine” appears as we know it now:
- importance of viticulture
- low yields
- grape selection
- careful vinification
- aging process
In addition, the transportation needs and the conservation of such precious liquid requires the beginning of the use of the glass bottle and cork stopper.
Today, some of the most important regions of the world such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne, acquire their fame in this era in which the commercial boom positions them worldwide. With the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the population in the cities, the demand for wine increased.
No everything could be expansion, growth, business and greatness, so in the second half s. XIX European wine world suffered one of the greatest blows in its history, the plague of the Phylloxera that began in the French Midi and quickly spread to almost all of Europe.
The plague came accidentally from America and devastated almost all the vineyards of Europe and few vines survived.
Its effect lasted almost 40 years until the solution was found: to bring grafted vines to American immune feet.
It is at this time when other diseases such as Mildiu and Oidium arise or are catalogued that affect our species today. vineyards and, without being as lethal as the Phylloxera, cause real havoc in our crops.
New World Discovery
As we said, the wine arrived in America with its discovery in 1492 and there was established accompanying the European colonies. The settlers were starting crops in virtually all their settlements, but not all proliferated since the climatic conditions of many of these areas are not conducive to the vine.
During the s. XX is experiencing the true boom of the New World and areas like the United States, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand begin to be examples of many techniques and practices that quickly imported and adapted the Old World.
XX Recovery after Phylloxera.
After the plague of Phylloxera Europe did not go through better times and it is not until after the First World War that European consumption recovered reaching historical records.
Wine in Europe was “average” and They sold at low prices due to the great crisis experienced by the war periods and the New World vineyards were favoured as European immigrants colonized the lands of these new regions and took advantage to gain positions as we discussed in the previous section.
Regulation and Science
After the dramatic experience of the Phylloxera and the economic crises, the first wine legislation emerged whose main objective was to combat the fraud of the great wines.
In 1905, the French system of AOC emerged, which has been followed in many regions of the world with which they were regulated: varieties, geographical limits, viticulture methods, etc.
The advances of science played a crucial role in the development of the sector with research on the vine, fermentation and aging.
End of XXth Century
During the decade of the 80’s there were abundant and excellent harvests which contributed to regularize supply and demand and to boom the sector considering the “Golden Age” of wine.
The New World then begins to compete in quality with the European classics and to put into vogue the concept of value for money so widespread now.
For years now the consumer has access to more and better-quality wine and the producer faces the challenge of brutal international competition.
The New Wine Era: S.XXI
From the end of the s. XX lives a period in the sector that to a certain extent parameterizes, conditions, guides, stigmatizes wines and their marketing. Critics and wine scores emerge, although historically there were contests and different recognitions to differentiate the qualities of the wines and, in some way, to put the product in value.
Nowadays, it may be the most popular in recent years. Robert M. Parker, founder of The Wine Advocate, has a worldwide network and classifies thousands of wines annually. However, more and more are recognized and respected that postulate about the bonanzas or no of wine.
Las new ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and globalization give rise to a new concept. Wine is becoming more accessible and the information related to it also. Today there are thousands of wines, styles, varieties, areas … that make wine … A WORLD OF WINE.
In its continuous desire for evolution, improvement and differentiation, the wine sector is in a continuous process of development and new trends are committed to more natural wines, focused on their origin, in the recovery of the winemaking traditions and the real expression of the area from which they come in a search of the roots, which is where this pleasant and powerful liquid comes from.