Where and when was wine created? The roots of winemaking

by Oct 23, 2020News0 comments

In Apadana Palace, Persepolis (Iran), a depiction of Armenian ambassadors bringing wine to the Persian Emperor - Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol), Wikimedia CommonsIn Apadana Palace, Persepolis (Iran), a depiction of Armenian ambassadors bringing wine to the Persian Emperor - Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol), Wikimedia Commons

In Apadana Palace, Persepolis (Iran), a depiction of Armenian ambassadors bringing wine to the Persian Emperor – Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol), Wikimedia Commons

Dear reader,

Why not some wine history in case you want some distraction from the worrisome developments regarding covid-19? I hope you’re staying safe — but now let’s also gain wine culture by meeting the birthplace and origins of winemaking!

I’m Breno, in Lisbon, where thankfully things are seemingly well – apart from the ever-growing concerns in respect to the current second wave of the pandemic.

Some months ago, I wrote some articles on fun facts about wine and about the differences between the Old and the New Worlds of winemaking, but I wanted to go back to what I had written about the oldest traces and roots of winemaking.

Why?, you ask me. Well, if you may recall, the oldest vestiges of a winery were found in Armenia.

So… my birthday was just the other day. To celebrate, my girlfriend surprised me with a dinner at an Armenian restaurant, where I got the opportunity to sip some interesting Armenian wines, including one made with 70% of pomegranate and others made from local varieties. So interesting and unique!




Who were the first people to produce wine?

Today I want to enjoy the occasion to dig further into how West Asia represents the true birthplace of wine, much before the Mediterranean traditions that we have been used to know.

Where did it all begin?, you ask.

The earliest traces of wine, with evidence that spans from 6,000 BC to 4,000 BC in West Asia, includes evidence found in the Caucasus Mountains, Zagros Mountains, the Euphrates River Valley, Southeastern Anatolia and other areas.

This area spans a large area that includes the modern nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, northern Iran, and eastern Turkey.

Mosaic with Armenian inscription at funerary chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Musara Quarter, Damascus Gate, Old Town of Jerusalem (Dickran Kouymjian, WikiCommons)Mosaic with Armenian inscription at funerary chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Musara Quarter, Damascus Gate, Old Town of Jerusalem (Dickran Kouymjian, WikiCommons)

Mosaic with Armenian inscription at funerary chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Musara Quarter, Damascus Gate, Old Town of Jerusalem (Dickran Kouymjian, WikiCommons)

These earliest traces of wine fermenting point to the Shulaveri-Shomu, a Neolithic period people from the region that spans between modern Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia that, apart from other traits, became known for grape growing.

Even though fermenting is estimated to have led to winemaking in the Caucasus around the later Neolithic period thanks to the development of pottery (circa 11,000 BC), archaeological vestiges of this date only to thousands of years later, with organic compounds found in ancient Georgian pottery (Qvevri) that link to winemaking in what today is modern Georgia – dating back to 6,000 BC.

Check out our latest offers -
julien italy series frame 2.jpg

China: a lesser known winemaking place from quite ancient times

Meanwhile, the use of wild grapes in alcoholic beverages in China has found scientific evidence dating back to 7,000 BC, even before the first traces coming from the Caucasus and Ancient Near East.

According to research by professor Gina Hames, the earliest wine or fermented liquor, came from China, pointed to pottery shards that show 9,000 year-old remnants of rice and grape wine in Jiahu village, Henan province.

The first known winery: a 6,100-year-old Armenian relic

The officially oldest known winery in the world, as we showed in the fun facts article, is situated in a cave in the mountains of Armenia.

With estimated 6,100 years old, the Areni-1 winery site was discovered between 2007 and 2010 and consisting of fermentation jars, a cup, press and bowl, and probably produced gallons for funerals.

According to Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavations at Areni-1, the early wine produced in the Armenian cave seemed somewhat comparable in taste to unfiltered merlot.

What is even nicer is that the surrounding Areni village is still quite known for winemaking, making red wines with a local ancient grape also called areni – arguably the most cherished variety from this southern Caucasus country.

The Areni-1 cave, site of the oldest winery known to humankind (Armenia) – Serouj, WIkiCommons


The Areni-1 excavations showed the first signs of a winery site


Oh– for that birthday dinner, I had the opportunity to sip a red made entirely from areni noir, a wine that had a remarkable acidity and resembled black fruit. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the label. Lovely! Try one of these too, if you can.

The spread of winemaking through the Mediterranean

Meanwhile, as we pointed out in our fun facts article, 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?

The Phoenicians cultivated grapes for winemaking and spread the word (and the liquid) before introducing it around 4500 BC to the ancient Greeks, who later inspired the Romans and their love for wine.

Almost needless to say, but… as the grapes that had been growing in the early winemaking areas were introduced to new areas during the expansion to the Mediterranean basin, they slowly mutated to survive the new climates. The rest is modern history!

Map by Wine FollyMap by Wine Folly

Map by Wine Folly


That is why, when we talk about Old and new Worlds of winemaking, it’s always good to remind that the Old World is really not exclusively about Europe. Even China – which many call new or even new-new in terms of winemaking – has older traditions than basically all the others. Open your mind if you still hang on to the old narratives.

PS.: A while ago, we at Alti Wine Exchange have offered the best wine from the oldest known active winery in the world, in Germany: the Riesling Beerenauslese Kröv Steffensberg 2007, from Staffelter Hof – which is also one of the oldest companies in the world, dating as far as 862 AD. It’s certainly one of the best wines for investment out there. Don’t miss out, it’s still available on our marketplace!

Until next time!


More you might want to read

Explore More from Our Blog

Ever heard of a wine cocktail?

DEAR READER, I hope some of you learned from the reader letter last week [hyperlink to Week Ten post] and checked your attics! You never know how much wine sits above you, waiting to be uncorked and decanted—on someone else’s dime! Dear Sommelier Ferdinand, I have a...

What on earth is a ‘Wine Decanter’?

DEAR READER, It’s come to my attention that many of you are ill-informed, misinformed, and frankly, uninformed about how wine is to be consumed. Were I only a wine enthusiast, it would be wholly dispiriting. But—wine is my profession, and I’m obligated to recognize...

“What’s My Next Question?” – Benjamin Kaplan

What’s My Next Question? On a random day like today 11 years ago, a legendary Harvard Law professor and lawyer, Benjamin Kaplan, died at 99 years of age. A rich, marked life that left an impact long after his last breathe. Apart from influencing the likes of Ruth...

Wine that Makes You Look Up

Wines that Make You Look Up Can you imagine having a device that magnifies your view and never thinking to look up, never pointing it toward the sky? Until August 25, 1609, nobody had. Enter Galileo Galilee, the man who changed the way we see and interpret all that is...

Should you be swirling your wine before consumption?

DEAR READER, Through all the melodrama of the past few weeks, I’ve neglected to educate the newcomers about the art of winetasting. So, I dug deep into my inbox for this query: Sommelier Ferdinand, I went to a ball last night and wasn’t aware of the proper pre-drink...

Sommelier Ferdinand answers “What’s the point of drinking wine from a hundred years ago?”.

DEAR READER, I’ve heard what you’ve all had to say, and I’ve decided to reach out to Jerry, once again, to bury the hatchet. Who’s to say if he would be open to making amends… but I made the effort, on behalf of all you insightful readers! I’ll keep you all updated on...


DEAR READER, Something unprecedented has happened. My assistant has received an additional letter from Jerry. Remember him—from last week [READ HERE] Well, our beloved wine purist wrote back after reading yesterweek’s column: Sommelier Ferdinand, I don’t care about...

Transcending Time through Wine

On August 11, 1888, The Scientific American published its 658th issue, replete with exciting findings. From “A Study on Whirlwinds,” to “The Distillation of Peppermint" and thoughts on the human conscious, this popular science magazine had already been around since...

Boxed Wine and an angry recipient.

What an experience, to receive all your criticisms. That would shake any normal individual. But I’ve spent years having my judgments under a microscope, so I’ve learned to shut my doors to it. You are all welcome to try—but I won’t be changing any time soon! Speaking...

Sommelier Ferdinand answers “What it takes to become a Sommelier”.

DEAR READER, As the grapes grow richer, so do the bottler and buyer! Wine is an investment, my dear readers. Never forget the long game! Now, for some advice you folks have solicited: Sommelier Ferdinand, I want to be a sommelier, like yourself. I have the respect for...

Harry Potter and the Magical Creation of Seña 2007

On July 21, 2007, J.K. Rowling released her seventh and final book of a most memorable series. In just 24 hours, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold more than 11 million copies! On that same day, in a land more fascinating than Hogwarts, Seña 2007 was getting...

This week Sommelier Ferdinand answers the difficult question “Which do you prefer: Red or White?

DEAR READER, Some wrote in after last week, wishing me happiness…? Sending me love…? What do you all think, I’m still in love with Matilde? Save your pity for someone who needs it, I beg you! Anyway: Sommelier Ferdinand, Which do you prefer: Red, or white? -Clarise...