Wine has long been an important part of our lives and culture. From the earliest attempts at viticulture to its impact on modern civilization, this beverage has shaped our world in ways we can’t imagine.
The history of wine is a complex one that spans several centuries. From its beginnings in the ancient lands of Georgia and Armenia, to its growth in Europe and across North America.
Wine, the fermented juice of grapes, has a rich history. It has played a key role in western society and was a sign of wealth and prosperity to early civilizations.
Although the wine industry has a strong presence in France, Italy and Spain, it is the New World that has adapted the Vitis vinifera grape to its varied climates, producing varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These grapes are also widely grown in Australia, North America, New Zealand and South Africa, with their flavors ranging from pear to apple to green plum in cool areas and melon, ripe peach and citrus in warm climates.
There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the origins of wine. It may have originated in the Near East, with evidence pointing to its domestication around 3200 BC. Archaeological finds from 6000 BC in Georgia and 7000 BC in China point to its use as a drink and food.
Attempts at winemaking in the United States began shortly after European settlers arrived on American soil. But the native grapes tended to be a mash of species that hadn’t been selected for winemaking over millennia and weren’t compatible with European-style winemaking practices.
But it didn’t take long for winemakers to figure out how to improve their results, says Jim Lapsley, professor of wine history at the University of California’s Agricultural Issues Center in Davis. Thanks to the development of new hybrid grapes and accumulated trial and error, winemaking in America soon grew into a full-fledged industry.
Interestingly enough, it was not until the 18th century that the first vineyards were established in the United States with European-style grapes. That’s because the climate and pests weren’t conducive to growing traditional French grapes, so they had to be mixed with native varieties.
Wine in North America
Wine has a long history in North America, from early attempts to grow grapes to the modern wine industry. The continent has seen vineyards developed in many countries, including Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.
Wine began to flourish after Columbus set sail in 1492 and European wine culture made its way to the New World. Spanish missionaries brought viticulture to Chile and Argentina in the 16th century, and later to California in the 18th.
Vine growing and wine making spread to the Americas largely through immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution, bringing with them a desire for inexpensive wine to supplement their food and shelter. The introduction of the eastern American root louse (phylloxera) destroyed Europe’s grapes, but vine breeding and grafting eventually produced a variety of native grapes that were resistant to the pest.
Today, North America is the fourth-largest wine-producing nation in the world, with most of its wine production taking place on the West Coast. The continent also produces wines in Canada, Mexico and Argentina.
Wine in the United States
The United States is fourth in the world for wine production and every state has some wineries. America is best known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The history of American wine is a fascinating one. It started with the first Europeans exploring North America, which they called Vinland because of the profusion of grape vines found there.
But they discovered that the wines produced by these native grapes were not of the quality they expected and had unfamiliar flavors that they did not like. This is why, over time, efforts to grow familiar Vitis vinifera varieties began.
The native grapes were very hard to grow in the wet and cold climate of the eastern seaboard. They were also prone to fungal diseases and phylloxera, an insect that thrives in wet environments. The American winemakers, however, were able to find hybrids that did better in this new climate. They created Alexander, Catawba, and Isabella grapes that became popular in the region.