Five curiosities you should know about the history of wine

Guest Post by Alti Wine Exchange

Hi, Social Vignerons reader,

Let me introduce myself. I’m Breno, copywriter at Alti Wine Exchange, a leading fine wine investment platform – where our brave Julien Miquel also happens to be Chief Wine Officer (you can read his latest posts here).

I’d like to thank Julien a lot for the suggestion of adapting here an earlier post we made on the Alti Wine Exchange blog about wine curiosities.

We know well how Social Vignerons readers are eager about the fine wine world, terroirs, grapes, blends, tasting notes and so much more.

So why not bring some historical fun facts to give some context?

From the oldest winery to the taste of wine during Roman times, let me give you five curiosities about the history of wine.

1 – The oldest winery in the world

In Areni-1 are the world’s oldest known vestiges of a winery (photo by Serouj on WikiCommons)

While wine history could likely trace back to millions of years ago, the officially oldest known winery in the world is situated in a cave in the mountains of Armenia.

With estimated 6.100 years old, the Areni-1 winery was discovered between 2007 and 2010 and consisting of fermentation jars, a cup, press and bowl, and probably produced gallons for funerals.

In turn, the oldest known active winery in the world is in Germany: Staffelter Hof, in Mosel, happens to be also one of the oldest companies in the world, dating as far as 862 AD.

Alti Wine Exchange has its flagship Beerenauslese Riesling available for investment, and Julien Miquel himself has reviewed it:

2 – The Greek? No. Thank the Phoenicians

Hellenistic mosaics near the city of Paphos depict Dionysos, god of wine

Speaking of history, the oldest bottle (still) presuming to contain liquid wine is also from Germany: the famous Speyer bottle, produced by Roman settlers between 325 and 350 AD and found in a tomb. It was found in the 19th century alongside other bottles, being the only one still unopened. You can visit it at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer.

Meanwhile, we all know how the Romans and the Greeks were heavily linked to wine, dedicating the respective gods Bacchus and Dionysus to it.

However, did you know that who spread wine across the Mediterranean were actually the Phoenicians?

Yes, they cultivated grapes for winemaking and spread the word (and the liquid) around the 10th century BC, introducing it to the ancient Greeks, who later inspired the Romans and their love for wine.

3 – Tasting in Ancient Rome

Galla Placidia (390-450), daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius I, in captivity

In vino veritas. Pliny the Elder’s writings from Pompeii, devastated by the Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD, showed references from early winemaking by the Romans.

Long story short? It’s hardly comparable to wine that has been produced in modern times.

Grapes in ancient Rome weren’t as sweet as today’s grapes. Also, the fermentation process ended with clay or resin-infused flavor due to the pot-sealing process.

Experts say the wines that came out of this process were robust, low in alcohol and somewhat unpalatable by today’s standards. The Romans would usually add honey, spices and dilute it with seawater (yes, seawater), resulting in the refreshing Mulsum, which is said to taste like a punch.

Oh, do you recall the oldest winery in the world that I had mentioned above? According to Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavations at Areni-1, the early wine produced in the Armenian cave would be somewhat comparable in taste to unfiltered merlot.

4 – And the biggest consumer is…

The Vatican!

Not quite expected this one, right? But well, per capita statistics are a thing.

Yes, the Vatican is the country with the biggest wine consumption per capita, nearing double the amount consumed by the Italians and the French: 74 liters a year (or 105 bottles), according to recent Wine Institute statistics.

Apart from the fact that it has less than a thousand inhabitants, Vatican City is mostly populated by residents of elder age, highly educated and who have in wine a ceremonial religious function.

Easily distortable, but yet a fact!

“DON’T let it fermentate. It will become wine. Don’t do it, okay? Oh, you did it? Too late, then…”

Winemakers in the United States who wouldn’t abandon the production in their vineyards during Prohibition managed to evade the law and make significant money with an ingenious way of making their customers (somewhat happy): making wine bricks.

Yes, wine bricks.

Since the law back then stipulated that grapes could only be grown and processed for non-alcoholic consumption, there was an interesting loophole to be explored. Using bricks of (legal) concentrated grape juice, producers could keep selling their products with a little help from customers.

The packages of these wine bricks had notes with, for example, warnings on NOT to leave the dissolved brick in a cool cupboard for 21 days – otherwise it would turn into wine, which was technically illegal.

Others would even include the “flavor”: Burgundy, Riesling, Port, Sherry? Your choice.

All completely legal if you followed the instructions on what NOT to do or on how to avoid fermentation.


I hope you have enjoyed this small piece. Until next time!

Meet Alti Wine Exchange.

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