The earliest archaeological and archaeobotanical evidence for grape wine and viniculture, dating to 6000 - 5800 BC was found on the territory of modern Georgia. Both archaeological and genetic evidence suggest that the earliest production of wine elsewhere was relatively later, likely having taken place in the Southern Caucasus (which encompasses Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan), or the West Asian region between Eastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran.
The earliest evidence of a grape-based fermented drink was found in China (c. 7000 BC), Georgia from 6000 BC, Iran from 5000 BC, and Sicily from 4000 BC. The earliest evidence of a wine production facility is the Areni-1 winery in Armenia and is at least 6100 years old.
Detail of a relief of the eastern stairs of the Apadana
, depicting Armenians
bringing an amphora, probably of wine, to the king.
A 2003 report by archaeologists indicates a possibility that grapes were mixed with rice to produce mixed fermented beverages in China in the early years of the seventh millennium BC. Pottery jars from the Neolithic site of Jiahu, Henan, contained traces of tartaric acid and other organic compounds commonly found in wine. However, other fruits indigenous to the region, such as hawthorn, cannot be ruled out. If these beverages, which seem to be the precursors of rice wine, included grapes rather than other fruits, they would have been any of the several dozen indigenous wild species in China, rather than Vitis vinifera, which was introduced there 6000 years later.
The spread of wine culture westwards was most probably due to the Phoenicians who spread outward from a base of city-states along the Mediterranean coast of what are today Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. The wines of Byblos were exported to Egypt during the Old Kingdom and then throughout the Mediterranean. Evidence includes two Phoenician shipwrecks from 750 BC discovered by Robert Ballard, whose cargo of wine was still intact. As the first great traders in wine (cherem), the Phoenicians seem to have protected it from oxidation with a layer of olive oil, followed by a seal of pinewood and resin, similar to retsina.
ancient wine vessel
The earliest remains of Apadana Palace in Persepolis dating back to 515 BC include carvings depicting soldiers from Achaemenid Empire subject nations bringing gifts to the Achaemenid king, among them Armenians bringing their famous wine.
Literary references to wine are abundant in Homer (8th century BC, but possibly relating earlier compositions), Alkman (7th century BC), and others. In ancient Egypt, six of 36 wine amphoras were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun bearing the name "Kha'y", a royal chief vintner. Five of these amphoras were designated as originating from the king's personal estate, with the sixth from the estate of the royal house of Aten. Traces of wine have also been found in central Asian Xinjiang in modern-day China, dating from the second and first millennia BC.
after the harvest; Tacuinum Sanitatis
, 14th century
The first known mention of grape-based wines in India is from the late 4th-century BC writings of Chanakya, the chief minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. In his writings, Chanakya condemns the use of alcohol while chronicling the emperor and his court's frequent indulgence of a style of wine known as madhu.
The ancient Romans planted vineyards near garrison towns so wine could be produced locally rather than shipped over long distances. Some of these areas are now world-renowned for wine production. The Romans discovered that burning sulfur candles inside empty wine vessels kept them fresh and free from a vinegar smell. In medieval Europe, the Roman Catholic Church supported wine because the clergy required it for the Mass. Monks in France made wine for years, aging it in caves. An old English recipe that survived in various forms until the 19th century calls for refining white wine from bastard—bad or tainted bastardo wine.
Map showing the word for wine in European languages.
The English word "wine" comes from the Proto-Germanic *winam, an early borrowing from the Latin vinum, "wine" or "(grape) vine", itself derived from the Proto-Indo-European stem *win-o- (cf. Armenian: գինի, gini; Ancient Greek: οἶνος oinos; Aeolic Greek: ϝοῖνος woinos; Hittite: wiyana; Lycian: oino). The earliest attested terms referring to wine are the Mycenaean Greek 𐀕𐀶𐀺𐄀𐀚𐀺 me-tu-wo ne-wo (*μέθυϝος νέϝῳ), meaning "in (the month)" or "(festival) of the new wine", and 𐀺𐀜𐀷𐀴𐀯 wo-no-wa-ti-si, meaning "wine garden", written in Linear B inscriptions. Linear B also includes, inter alia, an ideogram for wine, i.e. 𐂖.
Ultimate Indo-European origin of the word is the subject of continued debate. Some scholars have noted the similarities between the words for wine in Indo-European languages (e.g. Armenian gini, Latin vinum, Ancient Greek οἶνος, Russian вино [vʲɪˈno]), Kartvelian (e.g. Georgian ღვინო [ɣvinɔ]), and Semitic (*wayn; Hebrew יין [jaiin]), pointing to the possibility of a common origin of the word denoting "wine" in these language families. The Georgian word goes back to Proto-Kartvelian *ɣwino-, which is either a borrowing from Proto-Indo-European or the lexeme was specifically borrowed from Proto-Armenian *ɣʷeinyo-, whence Armenian gini. An alternate hypothesis by Fähnrich supposes *ɣwino- a native Kartvelian word derived from the verbal root *ɣun- ('to bend'). See *ɣwino- for more. All these theories place the origin of the word in the same geographical location, Trans-Caucasia, that has been established based on archeological and biomolecular studies as the origin of viticulture.