Wine: A Brief History

Whether you prefer Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, White Zinfandel, or any kind of vintage, one thing all wines have in common is that the origin of the tasty fermentation dates back further than just about any man-made beverage in existence.

The earliest historians have been able to trace wine to is roughly 6,000 BC, around 8,000 years ago in what we know today as the country of Georgia. From there the “nectar of the gods” moves throughout Europe, spreading to the more commonly attributed countries like Greece and Rome some 1,500 years later, hence Bacchus and his pseudonym Dionysius, the decadence of Pompeii, and stretching even farther west, the biblical documentation of Jesus turning water into wine. This also explains some nomenclature if you’ve ever been confused about the term “vino” or “vinter” or “vintage”: vin is the Latin word for wine. Consider the “vines” that wine grapes are picked from, or consider that there is no w in the Latin alphabet – v takes its place and functions the same way.

Wine-making started at different times in different parts of the world, from the Middle East to Asia Minor to southern Europe, but the process was similar and sprang up long ago in all cases, with the exception of Asian countries like China. While various fruits can be used to make wine (consider blueberry or raspberry wines), grapes are the originators what is essentially an alcoholic juice. Grapes are constructed chemically in such a manner that the only thing needed for successful fermentation is yeast; with its sugar make-up, the yeast goes on to ferment the sugar into alcohol. Simple as that. The right grapes were not abundant in China, however, as they were in many other countries to the south east of Asia. This is where rice wine comes in, also known commonly as sake (sah-kee) – though there is some difference between traditional rice wine and sake. Sake is fundamentally similar, though not exactly the same and more closely resembles beer production. Rice starch is broken down into sugar and fermented in rice wine, similar to what common wine does with grapes.

The names the various wines are attributed to the grapes from which they are created when those grapes are exclusively or nearly exclusively the only breeds used. Some wines do use combinations of grapes, often in heavily imbalanced amounts in order to create a specific, unique flavor, and this is what’s known as a blended wine (think of the complexity of a Bordeaux, known for blended wine. oregon wine tours

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