The drinking of fermented grape juice, known commonly as wine, certainly seems to have taken a hold of our collective imagination over the years.
A potted (or bottled!) history of wine
Vines have been cultivated in the Middle East since 4000BC, and the Egyptians were writing about using grapes to make wine in 2500BC. The Old Testament contains numerous references to the importance of wine. The Greeks planted vines from Spain to the Black Sea and stored their wine in earthenware pots.
The Romans developed better storage methods for the wine, keeping it in barrels and bottles not unlike the ones still used today. They also defined many of the modern European wine districts. They planted vines near the Garonne (Bordeaux), the Loire, the Marne (Champagne), the Rhône, and the Saône (Burgundy), the Rhine and Moselle (Germany and Alsace), and the Danube (Austria, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia).
Many of Europe's most important wine districts were extended and conserved by Monks because, thanks to Christianity, wine was used in the mass. This kept the wine trade alive after the decline of the Roman Empire threatened the demise of such luxuries.
Wine reached the New World when Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. The missionaries from Spain were responsible for introducing viticulture to Argentina and Chile in the 1500s. Southern California became a wine region in the 1700s when the missionaries moved north.
Vines were introduced to Australia and New Zealand by the British people who emigrated there in the early 1800s. South Africa was ahead of the game though as the Dutch first planted vines there in the 1650s.
Out with the Old, in with the New?
There are two parts to the wine world map: the Old and the New. The Old World includes the regions of France (so Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Languedoc-Rousillon, Loire, Rhône and Southwest France), and Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain. The New World includes Chile, England, New Zealand, North America, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa.
This section aims to explain some of the basic principles about wine, offering advice about how to buy it, store it, when to drink it and with which foods, and even (if it lasts that long) whether you can sell it!