Who invented wine?

Who invented wine?

Humans have been drinking wine for thousands of years, long before we started recording anything in detail, so the exact origins of viticulture, winemaking and wine remains a little hazy.

Evidence of the existence of wine dating back 4000-6000 years has been found in Georgia, Iran, Greece and Sicily, so it would appear that once wine was invented the idea caught on quickly. In 2007, archeologists working in Armenia were stunned when they discovered a 6,100-year-old winery complete with a grape press, fermenting vats and underground storage vessels. The Armenian site was quite sophisticated suggesting that the art of winemaking had been refined over many years prior. But when did it start?

Another line of research has been to look for early evidence for the domestication of the grapevine as surely this was required before substantial production of wine could take place. Amazingly, recent evidence of grapevine cultivation dating back 11,000 years has emerged. What’s more, it appears that viticulture developed in two different sites, about 1000 km apart, in Western Asia and the Caucasus.

This timing is extraordinary as this was about the time when humans began to move out of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and started domesticating wheat, allowing civilisation to develop. It has been argued that grapes were the first fruits domesticated by humans. But did wheat predate grapes, or vice versa?

Who cares? Having created bread and wine at about the same time, do you think our ancestors were onto something?

We are not there yet. Deliberately cultivating grapes would have been a relatively sophisticated practice at the time, so wine was probably invented a little earlier, and by accident. 12,000 years ago, many wild grapevines grew in the broad region between the Black Sea and Iran and it’s not hard to imagine that a harvest would have taken place once the fruit was ripe. Perhaps the Eureka moment came when someone decided to store excess grapes in a big pot for later consumption.

Grapes at the bottom of the pot would have broken, releasing their juice and sugar and allowing the yeasts naturally occurring on the grapes to commence fermentation. That’s the thing about this amazing beverage – grape juice simply turns into wine, it just happens. Although the quality of the first wine produced may have been a bit indifferent, we can only speculate about the quality of the party that followed.

So wine was probably invented by a glorious accident, about 12,000 years ago, maybe by simple hunter-gather folk, somewhere in Western Asia or the Caucasus. Bless them.