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History of Wine – 7 Crazy Facts

  • 8 min read

If you’re feeling like you’re in need of some wine to ease through the daily grind or even just to get outta bed, you’ll be thrilled to learn of National Drink Wine Day on the 18th of February. Sit back and enjoy this summary of the history of wine.

If you’re celebrating by drinking an excellent Bordeaux or by putting on an I Love Lucy and stepping into a tub full of grapes, it’s a day to celebrate this traditional of beverages that can be traced from prehistoric Egypt and perhaps earlier. Evidence of wine-making based on grapes can be found as early as 4500-4000 BC within Armenia.

Much of the human story has been focused on the production and consumption of wine in various forms, from ritual to religion to drunkenness in general, however, different cultures have added several bizarre chapters to the story of wine. Enemas of wine, anyone? The history of wine is crazy and interesting.

Modern wine is still producing its own myths and legends. The famous scam of trading entrepreneur Rudy Kurniawan in the 2010s and the way he crafted in a sophisticated scheme of selling low-quality wines disguised as premium vintages that earned him millions of dollars, is now a part of wine folklore and is the basis for an investigation (and it’s the perfect film for wine enthusiasts). No matter if you’re the grab-and-glug kind, however, there’s something to be found in the history of wine for everyone. From the disgusting to somewhat less disgusting.

History of Wine In Ancient Eygpt

Wine played a crucial ceremonial role in the religious system of ancient Egypt and nowhere was this more apparent than in what they used to conduct funerals for the elite. Most would agree this is where the history of wine begins. There was an abundance of wine as a symbol at burial places (one was that of the eminently called leader Scorpion was found to contain 700 wine bottles, each of that would have been filled when he was laid to rest) in order to quench the deceased thirsty person and also to help with the rest of the deceased. They also used wine to “clean” the body after it was deemed to be irreparably dead.

Egyptians Made WIne Out of Everything

The ancient Egyptians did not just concentrate their winemaking on grapes, they also diversified their winemaking into all kinds of palms, from figs to ferns. It was the palm wines, especially delicious and sought-after as it was utilized in the ritual of cleansing as per Egyptologist Salima Ikram. After the well-known method of removing the brain via the nostrils, she writes,

The treatment was reserved for the highest-end Egyptians and was priced at the price of the earth. Palm wine may have helped to make the body smell sweeter, particularly since there weren’t refrigerators at the time.

Mayans and Ceremonial WIne

The Mayans were known to have a specific kind of wine known as pulque. It was composed of fermented sap from a cactus. The way they consumed it was quite intense. According to ancient records, the Mayans consumed it with enemas when they visited caves, which were believed to be entrances to the dead. With the high alcohol consumption from this method, it was believed that it would aid them to “communicate” with the spirits. The history of wine starts getting weird.

Mayan Body Cleansing

The enemas typically caused some rather violent nausea, a component of the ritual which shows prominently in many Mayan images from the period. Vomiting was reportedly a desired result of the emetic. the Mayans believed that pulque could cleanse and that enemas, as well as vomiting, were an essential part of this “purging” that you needed to be able to enter the afterlife.

Ancient Greek Doctors

The early Greek doctors developed an idea of the body’s liquids and organs that was prevalent in Europe through the late Renaissance. The idea was the four touches of humor as elements that needed to remain “balanced” in the body in order to maintain good health. 

There was also an assumption of a major function that wine played in the body and the fact that it could “transform into” blood as it enters the veins of your body. The water-into-wine trick. For thousands of years, Europeans were convinced that according to the medieval French physician Henri de Mondeville, “good wine is the most appropriate food for generating blood, and consequently for generating flesh.”

It was believed that blood insufficiency can be compensated through drinking wine and that you could lower blood pressure by cutting back your consumption of wine. Wines that were dark red were obviously considered to be particularly blood-replacement. The historian Jacques Joanna notes that this is seen all over Hippocratic medicine from encouraging drinking wine in the aftermath of a severe nosebleed, and even using it for heart problems.

Japan and the History of Sake

Sake, a fermented wine made from rice is now widespread in the world of wine however its origins in the past of Japan could be a bit less safe than the standards now regulated by safety and health laws. Rice starch must get broken down by a certain method in order to be properly fermented by yeast, and then transformed to sake (the process is more like wine than beer) Japanese sake makers found the ideal method of doing this with saliva from humans. People who chewed their rice, then dump in a pot which was where saliva would dissolve the rice. Scientist Hiroshi Kondo explains that particular mouths that chewed on the rice became part of the Shinto ritual of worship.

The bijinshu method was especially well-liked for weddings, and even though it’s no longer commonplace, scholar Patrick McGovern of the wine industry states that in remote areas that are Japan and Taiwan in the present, you can “still find women sitting around a large bowl, masticating and spitting rice juice… as they prepare the rice wine for a wedding ceremony.”

Roman Miracle Elixir

The Roman philosopher and naturalist Pliny the Elder loved to collect bizarre information about anything that was important to Romans and it’s an indication of their attitudes towards a wine that a large portion in his Natural Histories is devoted to the subject. He discusses 50 different types of wine, explains their various effects and the process of making them, and, in general, turns to be an expert on viticulture. 

The Romans were a fan of wine and would offer honeyed wine at public events to get support from the citizens. An archaeological project in Italy that was launched in 2013 to make wine that was made in the “ancient way” was just adhering to detailed Roman guidelines exactly to the letter. However, Romans weren’t the only ones to think of wine as a one-off product, or simply something to drink. according to Pliny said, specific wines were believed to have supernatural powers:

Ancient Europe Cureall

In the middle ages of Europe wine was considered a sort of universal stimulant. In addition to its role in helping to produce blood as well, it was also used to make almost any medicine go down much more easily and it was also used in cures for virtually everything. For those who love wine, it is like a paradise in a bottle. Women who want to have males, for instance, the Trotula 12th-century Italian Gynaecological books, recommended to drink wine with her husband mixed with vagina and womb of a rabbit and she drinks wines with dried testicle of a rabbit. This is a great evening.

It was a suggestion that could be both internal and external was internal as well as external. The wine is also included in medieval recipes for healing regarding cataracts, snake bites, and headaches. A typical treatment for migraines was to boil different herbs in wine and then soak the patient’s head in the resultant mixture at night.

history of wine 2

Wine Infused With Cocaine

We’ve all heard about the beginnings of cocaine from Coca-Cola. However, in 1863, cocaine also moved into the realm of wine. With a splash at this. It was the “tonic wine” Vin Mariani that came out in the European market in the hope of providing a remedy for all ailments and was a delightful blend consisting of red Bordeaux and coca leaves that had been ground up. It was a huge hit partly due to its one of the first advertising campaigns based on celebrity.

Before Charlize Theron was the face of perfume the clever scientist responsible for the product, Alberto Mariani, collected testimonials from the most crowned head from Europe (including queen Victoria) and prominent politicians. The wine’s most ardent advocate however is Pope Leo XIII, who was such a fervent supporter that he awarded Mariani the honor of a medal and let his image and his praise be featured in wine’s advertising. Sales, understandably, soared. Mariani died in 1914 as a millionaire. The history of wine is truly intriguing and fascinating. These are just a few of the more interesting facts.

History of Wine Infographic Timeline
History of Wine Infographic Timeline

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