A short history of wine drinking

26/11/2011 16:16:22

A short history of wine drinking

I'm a drinker of wine, not a connoisseur of wine. If you would blindfold me I would not be able to guess the name or chateau of a wine, I can only tell you that I liked it or not. I prefer dark and rich wines, but do not disdain the light ones, and even if I drink more red than white I don't mind a good glass of white. You will not see me order easily a housewine in Holland, but when I'm in Italy I can be sure in a restaurant or in an agritourism it will taste as good as a wine from any bottle.

Wine, together with oliveoil, has always played a central role in the area of the Mediterranean. It was a luxury product, destined for the rich, for the tribal chiefs, for the important men in society. Drinking wine together, the symposion, spread throughout the Mediterranean as would the ceramics like cups and craters. Craters were used to mix the wine with water, to sweeten it with honey or to cover the sour taste with herbs. Wine could not be kept very long in the amphorae, even when these were sealed off with cork and beeswax. The vine was associated with the greek Dionysos or the roman Bacchus

Wine was important for social life, for contacts between equals or with outsiders. In the first millennium BC contacts intensified with the development of shipping, the production, trade and consumption of wine, oliveoil and grains, and the increasing urbanization, the growth of urban centres. Trade was no longer a privilege of chiefs and kings, oligarchies of merchants and landowners took over political power and established republics.
For the Romans the trade in wine was a means to bind local chiefs and aristocracies of Northern-Europe to them. They shipped amphorae filled with wine up the Rhone and where they transferred the wine to wooden barrels (adding water in the process) heaps of sherds of amphorae have been found. In Gallia and Germania wine was a favourite drink and sure enough it will have reached the lower Rhine where romanized Cananefates and Bataves lived, and the barbaric Frisians.

During the Middle Ages and after in Northern-Europe wine remained a privilige of the rich and the church. For the people the only alternative was beer that could be brewed from the local produce of the land. With the Industrial Revolution and the technological innovations in production and transport, not in the least the use of the bottle and the cork, wine became a product more accessible to the common people. Wine making spread to other continents where western culture had been introduced. Around the Mediterranean smaller farms and families started producing home made wine.
Because of the increased competition producers in Europe are now forced to increase the quality of their products, and that goes particularly for an island like Sardinia where transportation costs for exportation are relative high. There is now less home production but there are many more professional winemakers and the quality in the past decades has been increasing significantly. You'll notice that if you order a housewine in any restaurant or agritourism you go. For me the best wines I like to drink are those from the islands where the climate is harsher, the Nero d'Avola, the Cannonau, the Carignano, sometimes a lighter Monica or a white wine like the Vermentino. Cheers!

A short history of wine drinking

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