A Brief History on Wine

One thing I love about wine is the geography and history aspect, as I have mentioned before I am a book nerd so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those who know me.  Since wine does have such a long, deep and interesting (I often compare it to a soap opera) history I thought I would start my first post in this topic with a brief timeline.

8,000 – 6,000 BC:  Evidence shows that the earliest wine production began in the areas that are now Armenia, Georgia and Iran.  Wine production has also been discovered in Macedonia where there was also evidence of crushed grapes.

6,000 BC:  First wine press, found in Armenia

1,000 BC:  Romans begin to classify grapes by color, ripening characteristics, and taste.  They also begin research on diseases that can attack grapes and identify which soils tend to produce better grapes.

325 AD:  Oldest known bottle of wine that has been discovered.  It was found in 1867 in a small town in Germany.

1001:  Leif Eriksson discovers North America and names it ‘Vineland’ for the endless species of native grapes he found.  It was later discovered that this was a separate species of grapes – vitis labrusca – than the vitis vinifera grapes being grown in Europe.

1152:  Britain becomes the principle buyer of Bordeaux.  At this time, French wines dominated the wine market and are consider the best in the world.

1500s & 1600s:  Exploration brings grapes (and wine) to new areas such as Mexico, Argentina and South Africa.

1609:  American settlers make the first wine from the native vitis labrusca grapes and are thoroughly disappointed. Settlers respond by ordering vinifera cuttings from Europe but fail miserably at growing the vines in the new world.

1683:  William Penn plants the first vineyard in Pennsylvania.

1769:  The first California vineyard is planted with Mission grapes by Franciscan missionary Father Junipero Serra.

1800s:  After numerous attempts of growing vinifera vines on the East Coast, US winemakers are successful with a new breed of grapes – American hybrids – which are a cross between vinifera and labrusca.

1849:  The gold rush brings settlers and wine to the modern day wine growing regions of California.

1863:  Native American vines (vitis lambrusca) are taken to Europe for research.  The grape lose, phylloxera vastatrix, tags along for a ride on the vines (which American vines are immune to).  The lose attacks and spreads to European vines destroying almost all of the vines in Europe over the next 20 years.  The travesty increases demand for vinifera wine being grown in California.  By 1876, California is producing more than 2.3 million gallons of wine per year.

1876:  Phylloxera arrives back on American soil and begins attacking the vinifera vines planted in California.  Finally, later in the 1800s it is discovered that by grafting vinifera grapes onto labrusca vines, growing regions can outsmart and avoid the phylloxera problem.

1920:  US Congress enacts the 18th amendment which begins Prohibition.  At this time there are more than 700 wineries in California.  At one point, the government even stepped in and disallowed the production of non-alcoholic grape juice (people were ordering it and fermenting the juice into wine on their own at home).

1930s:  The French AOC (Appellation d’origine controlee) is created.

1933:  Congress repeals Prohibition, but the wine industry in America is descimated. Only 160 wineries remain in California.

Late 1950s:  The American ‘wine boom’ begins.

1976:  Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars top French producers in the blind tasting of Paris.

2011:  US becomes the largest wine consuming country for the first time in history.

1980s:  The American AVA (American Viticultural Area) regional system is enacted.

Posted on May 23, 2011, in Wine and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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