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This blog site includes news on latest wines, food, events, offers and happenings at artisan & vine. It also includes stories of my wine adventures in and outside the bar, wine facts and wine profiles.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Wine Facts: a Brief History of Wine

Every week I'm posting some Wine Facts, you can find them in this blog under the "Wine Facts" tag. This week: you need to know where you've been to know where you might go!

Pre-history through to Ancient Rome
Evidence of wine making and drinking emerges as early as ancient Babylon (3000BC) and Egypt (some sophisticated relics from 1900BC). Wine moves its way up to the Mediterranean with the Phoenicians in 1100BC and exists as a hallmark of Greek social life and culture throughout antiquity. Ancient Rome sees the first documentation of vintages and ageing with the legendary “Opimian”, of 121BC vintage, being drunk 125 years later!

The Middle Ages through to the 18th Century
The Middle Ages saw the emergence of the Church and monastical wine making. The one commercial exception to the Church’s vineyard domination was Bordeaux, with its market focused wine production for France and England. Bordeaux sets a precedent for the wine world of the future.
The wine industry grew and prospered in Europe up until the 17th century as it was the only safe and storable beverage of the time. Water and ale were largely unsafe and spirits and caffeinated drinks did not yet exist.
In the 17th century the European world opened to the Americas and Asia. This brought tea, coffee and chocolate. The Dutch developed spirits and hops were added to ale to make much more stable beer. As a reaction to these new competitive drinks, wine moved from being a necessity beverage to a prestige drink. The quality of wine improved greatly and by the 18th century, Europe had established many of its most successful quality wine regions and techniques.

The 20th Century
The 20th century saw science and industrialisation provide the basis for mass production and global distribution of wine. Hiccups around various Prohibition campaigns, a couple of world wars and more dangerous to the vine world – a lethal outbreak of the now infamous vine pest phylloxera – dented production levels from time to time, but the wine world had already proved itself hardy and continued to improve.

It’s easy to get editorial on the state of the wine world today. Clearly, globalisation and the artificial tricks to producing wine for epic journeys and immediate supermarket stocking have taken their tolls on what was an artisanal product. Though, there is hope. Naturally, this brief account of the History of Wine must conclude with the spectacularly historic opening of London’s first wine bar to specialise in Local and Natural wines: artisan & vine. It says a lot for the luxury of our age that we have so many different wines and specialist wine bars to choose from.

Image: of course the Egyptians were at it.

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