History Of Wine – When Did The World Start Making Wine
27th May 2022
Each country has its own history in growing vines and making wine, in this article I’ll break down the time period when certain countries started their Winemaking lives.
This list contains 45 of the most well-known Winemaking countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and both North and South America.
Answering questions like When Did New Zealand Plant Their First Vines?
When Did Portugal Start Making Wine?
Also, find out Which Country is Considered The Birth Place of Wine.
Along with Which South American Country Planted The First Vines.
And so much more!
The story of French Wine began in the 6th century BC when Greek settlers colonised Southern Gaul, The Roman Empire also licensed some of the South of France to produce Wine.
We can’t leave France without mentioning the creation of Champagne, the story goes that the now world-famous French monk, Dom Pérignon invented Champagne in 1697 and when first tasting it, said these words, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”.
There is also a story that the French don’t like to speak about, that Sparkling Wine was first created at least 30 years earlier in England, with an English scientist discovering Winemakers adding sparkle to their tipple.
England was introduced to Vines back during the Roman Empire, in 43 BC Emperor Claudius began the conquest of the British Isles and with him, he brought along some vines and possibly introduced winemaking at the same time.
Heading forward to the 10th century, Vineyards were being planted and Wines were being produced off the side of Monasteries, mostly around the West Country and Central South regions of England.
The first Commercial English Winery was created in 1952 and is still in operation, and that is Hambledon vineyard.
The history of Italian Wine dates back centuries, with it currently believed to go back as far as 4000BC, they state this because archeologists found evidence that viticulture in Sicily was thriving during that time.
It was originally believed that Wine production started in Italy from 1300 to 1100 BC before the discovery above.
What we do know for sure is that Wine was prospering well before the first Greek colonists arrived in Italy around 800 BC and was a huge enjoyment during the Roman Empire.
We can’t go to Italy without talking about Prosecco, so let’s explore that a little bit, The Glera grape is believed to be of Slovenian origin, bordering Italy. At the time of the Romans in 200 BC, it’s said they referred to the Grape as Puccino.
The word Prosecco was first written in a poem by Aureliano Acanti in 1754. The Prosecco region would receive its DOC statues in 1969.
There are two noted times when wine was first produced in Spain, the earliest was between 4000 to 3000 BC when archaeologists believe that grapes were first cultivated.
The second was around 1100 BC with the construction of a trading post in Cádiz in southwestern Spain by the Phoenicians.
One of the most important times for Spanish Wine was once the Roman Empire established itself in Spain, they aided in trading and exporting Spanish Wine throughout the Roman Empire.
Spain is of course famous for its own Sparkling Wine, Cava, it would be wrong not to mention its creation. In addition to its renowned Cava, Spain is also known for its vibrant hospitality industry, offering various opportunities including bar jobs in Spain.
It was Josep Raventós who produced the first bottle of Cava in 1872 after he brought back the Méthode Champenoise (Champagne Method/Traditional Method) from France.
In Portugal, vines were planted in the Sado and Tagus valleys in at least 2000 BC, it was in the 10th century BC when the Phoenicians introduced new grape varieties and some new Winemaking techniques to the country.
Viticulture and Winemaking is an age-old tradition in the country of Switzerland, dating back before the Roman Empire, to 800 BC, during a time when the Celtics lived in Switzerland.
Inside a Celtic Tomb of a lady from the 2nd century BC near Sembrancher, a ceramic bottle was discovered with an inscription that many professionals believe once contained Wine.
It was the Roman Empire that first saw the potential in the soil of Germany back in 100 BC, once they conquered the land they decided to plant vines, in particular, the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen region, which translates to ‘Little Droplets of Gold’.
Emperor Charlemagne, former Holy Roman Emperor, who ruled much of Western Europe from 768 to 814, becoming King of the Franks in 771, a Germanic tribe, helped to spread the cultivated grapes across the country.
The first evidence of Wine in Austria dates back to 700 BC, to the times of the Celts and Romans.
The very famous Grüner Veltliner grape, which today is the most planted grape variety in Austria, was created in the 10th century.
We don’t fully know when they started making Wine, but we do believe it was no later than the 5th century BC, some 2,500 years ago, back before the Ancient Greek settlers.
The evidence for this comes in form of a coin, which featured a grape cluster on one side and an amphora, that can be used to keep them in on the other.
Georgia is a very important country when it comes to Wine history, it is currently considered to be the Birthplace of Wine, or to some people the ‘Cradle of Wine’.
It was originally thought to date back to 6,000 BC with the people of South Caucasus, but our history books have since been updated to go back another 2,000 years.
In 2017 an archeological excavation unearthed a Georgian Qvevri dating back 8,000 years.
Referred to as either, Qvevri, Kvevri, or Tchuri, is a large egg-shaped vessel that is used for the fermentation, storage and ageing of traditional Georgian wine, they discovered that if they stored grape juice underground during the winter, it would turn into Wine.
The use of a Qvevri is still sort after when making Wine in Georgia, storing them underground, or even setting it into the floor of their cellars, it is currently the oldest known tradition for making Wine and you can still appreciate some Wines that come from this technique.
Moldova holds one of the oldest pieces of evidence of Winemaking, dating back to the Neolithic Period, roughly 7000 years ago.
Since then, Moldovan Winemaking has been through multiple stages of development to deliver what they produce today.
Slovenia’s Wine Story dates back somewhere between the 5th and 4th century BC, predating any influence from the Romans and can be traced all the way to the Celtic and Illyrian tribes who did cultivate vines for wine production.
Slovenia also houses the World’s Oldest Vine, planted over 450 years ago, at the end of the Middle Ages during the Turkish invasions.
It’s referred to as ‘The Old Vine’ and it even has its own dedicated museum.
Hungry for Hungarian Wines, Wine has been produced in Hungary since the 13 or 14 centuries.
Another country with thousands of years of Winemaking experience behind them, Greece was one of the first countries to start producing Wine, with evidence pointing back over 6,500 years ago.
It’s believed that Wine was produced both on a household and communal basis back then.
A Greek word, which they would use was ‘pigeage’ and that would refer to crushing grapes.
There is a 2,000-year-old white wine recipe that is still being produced today, so you can literally taste some of what the ancient Greeks would have enjoyed.
The well-exposed hillsides of the Meuse River served as the perfect place to cultivate vines, the Belgians noticed and were all too happy to start planting, dating back to the 9th century.
As far back as 968 BC, viniculture was mentioned in what is now within the borders of Netherland, in the city of Maastricht. Its modern Wine production took off during the 1970s.
Imagine having 6,000 years of Winemaking behind you, well, Romania doesn’t have to, they are one of the oldest Winemaking and Viticulture countries in the world.
The first Vineyards in Poland were planted on the Wawel Hill in Krakow during the tenth century in 966. Their Viticulture skills evolved with the hard work and dedication of monks, it later caught on with the Polish nobility, being enjoyed by the rich by the end of the 16th century.
Ukrainians have been planting Vines since the 4th century BC on the south coast of the peninsula Crimea, it wasn’t until the 11th century when monks pushed the industry forward and then in 1792 on the southern coast of the Black Sea, British Earl Koble planted the first Vine and sealed Ukraine into the Wine World.
Vines have been in Russia for thousands of years, growing wildly around the Caspian, Black and Azov Seas, the Viticulture of these grapes would have started before the Ancient Greeks, as evidence of trading between the two has been found along the shores of the Black Sea in both Phanagoria and Gorgippia.
It has been claimed that the Black Sea area is actually the Oldest Wine Region in the World, although it cannot be confirmed.
It wasn’t until the 19th century when the world started tasting some quality Russian wines, being produced in commercial volumes
Another very interesting piece of information is the fact that Russia can call their Sparkling Wines by the name of Champagne, France are obviously very unhappy about this, but under a new Russian law, only Russian producers can label their wines by the name of ‘Shampanskoye’ which directly translates to Champagne.
The name was created in 1928 by the Soviets after Stalin ordered the creation of a luxury drink to become available to the masses and it was called ‘Sovetskoye Shampanskoye‘ which means ‘Soviet Champagne‘
The history of Israel and Wine is rather a foggy one, there isn’t a lot of documented evidence of the suspected long history of winemaking in the country, we have to look inside the Old Testament to find the words ‘Wine’ and ‘Vine’ written various times throughout, if we consider that the book was written between 1200 and 165 BC, it’s safe to say that is at least how old Israeli Wine is.
One of the reasons it got foggy for many years was during the time period of the Ottoman Empire when Muslims ruled the land of Israel and banned any form of alcohol, as they see it as harmful to the body and spirit, so they decided to uproot and destroy all the vines in the country, so for hundreds of years, Israel didn’t produce any Wine.
We have to fast forward all the way to 1848 to find the first winery opened by Yitzhak Shor called Zion Winery which is still in operation today, it was first used only for religious purposes.
Then in 1882, Frenchman, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild deployed the foundation for what is now the modern Wine industry in Israel by creating the Carmel Mizrahi Winery.
Viticulture and Winemaking goes back centuries, it is an ancient craft that predates the Pyramids, Egypt has been making Wine since the predynastic and early dynastic periods, as far as 3,200 BC.
During this time Vineyards belonged to Royalty, Nobles and Rulers. Even the great Queen Cleopatra is thought to have enjoyed a glass of Wine.
At least 5000 years of story to tell in Lebanon when it comes to Viticulture, but we must move forward to between 3000 BC and 330 BC to see the impressive growth of Wine production in the country, during this time the territory of Phoenicia in Lebanon exported a large supply of Wine to the likes of Rome, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus.
Their history is vast and diverse, but to discover their more modern Winemaking, we need to travel to 1857 when Jesuit Monks would plant Grape Vines on the grounds of Chateau Ksara in the Bekaa Valley, they used Cinsault grapes that traveled over from Algeria.
Grapes have been planted in Turkey for more than 10,000 years, but it would take another 3,000 years before they started making Wine with those grapes.
The Peninsula of Anatolia in Turkey is the oldest Winemaking area in the country, dating back 7,000 years.
In Northern Morocco in the Meknes region, possibly in the city of Meknes, the first Vines were planted over 2,500 years ago.
The Wine industry in Morocco was adapted and advanced by the French Protectorate, which was the occupation of a large part of Morocco by the French military, from 1912 to 1956.
The production of turning grape juice into Wine in the powerhouse of China dates back to at least the Han Dynasty which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD, an imperial envoy led by Zhang Qian opened diplomatic relations with a number of Central Asian kingdoms, that at the time, did produce Wine from Grapes.
Further evidence points to the possibility that Winemaking dates back as far as 9,000 years in China (7000 BC), Scientists believe that the Chinese consumed fermented beverages during this time, it’s just not confirmed whether this was actually Wine.
The production methods for producing Wine in ancient China did vary, you could have fermented a mixture of molded and steam cooked grains in a container of water for multiple days together or you could have fermented steamed rice and germinated grain.
Those methods don’t include grapes, so that’s why we can’t confirm whether the evidence from 9000 years ago was Wine or not.
It’s claimed that the first Vineyards in Sweden were planted by the Roman Catholic Church during the Medieval times in monasteries. There isn’t a ton of evidence to support this, but it is what we currently believe.
In more recent times, the Swedish people plant Vines in greenhouses or in a conservatory for the purpose of fruit or for table decorations, not for the production of Wine.
The Swedish Wine industry started to blossom at the end of the 1990s, but it’s still very small, with figures from 2020 putting it around 50 vineyards.
The history of the Grape is long in Denmark, but the history of Wine might not be.
It was only at the end of the 20th century when wineries started appearing in Denmark, a legalization of wine production in 1999 was passed which helped further the engagement with producing Wine in the country of Denmark.
As for the grape, in 2012 and 2013 two different ancient findings showcase grape pips, with the first being from the Late Germanic Iron Age palace of Bulbrogård during 500 AD and the second finding being at the royal palace of Fugledegård, during the Viking Age from 780 to 980 AD, these two discoveries mark the oldest grape seeds discovered in Danmark.
These findings of course don’t confirm anything in the way of Winemaking in Denmark, but what we do know is that grapes were in Denmark during this period, either grown or transported and we know that Vikings did like to drink Wine, so whether they produced it in Denmark and or just looted it from other countries, is yet to be confirmed.
During the Age of Exploration, Spanish ships would carry with them bottles of Wine, leading to the first bottle of Wine on U.S. soil. It’s slightly unclear on a definitive answer for when Wine was first made in the U.S. but it seems to point towards the 1500s.
Although we do know that the first slightly commercial Wine production started in 1628 in New Mexico, with the Grape variety of Vitis Vinifera. At that time, New Mexico belonged to Spain.
After the English landed in America, they wanted their American colonies to enjoy the pleasures of Wine, so in 1618 the first legislation on Wine was signed in the U.S.
It was in 1848 that New Mexico was ceded to America, shortly after in 1868 Jesuit priests settled in New Mexico, bringing with them their knowledge of Italian Winemaking, with the first New Mexican Winery being founded in 1872.
If we go back a touch to 1833 we will find documents of European Vines being planted on Los Angeles soil, by Jean-Louis Vignes, becoming the State’s first commercial Winemaker.
The first Grapes were planted in California in 1779, but North California, with the likes of Napa and Sonoma, didn’t receive any planting of Vines until the Gold Rush in 1848.
When we look at American Wines, there is just one state that accounts for 81% of all American Wines and that state is California, each year they produce 17 million gallons of Wine. If we looked at California as a country, it alone would be the 4th largest producer of Wine in the entire world.
The French explorer by the name of Jacques Cartier, in 1535 sailed over to St. Lawrence River in Canada, where he discovered a massive collection of wild Grapes.
When we look at the first Vineyard planted in Canada, they settled in British Columbia, during the 1860s in the mesmerizing Okanagan Valley, we would have to wait until the 1930s before the first Winery would be established in that valley. The first Canadian Winery came sooner, by 1866 the first commercial winery opened, and by the start of the 1890s Canada would have seen 41 commercial Wineries in operation.
The history of Mexican Wine started with the Spanish in the 16th century, they brought with them vines from Europe and knowledge of Winemaking.
Mexico was a country that did have its own indigenous grapes growing before the Spanish, but there is no evidence that anyone used them to create Wine.
Mexican Wine took a big hit in 1699 when King Charles II of Spain prohibited Mexico from making Wine unless it was for Church Purposes, it wasn’t until Mexico’s Independence in 1821 that they started making Wine on are larger scale again.
The Spanish transported Vines from Spain over to Argentina during the early Age of Discovery, the first time a European stepped foot into Argentina was in 1502.
The city of Santiago del Estero serves as a birthplace for Argentinan Wine, housing the first commercial Vineyard in 1557, planted by Jesuit Missionaries
This time the Portuguese were responsible for planting the first Vines in a South American country, in 1532 they planted the first Vines in the state of São Paulo in Brazil.
The first Brazilian Wine was then produced in 1551, but it would take up to 1626 for it to really get moving.
The first Vines planted in Chile were transported over on Spanish ships, we sort of know the grape variety as well and it could have been ‘País’ or ‘Vitis Vinifera’, they planted them in the middle of the 16th century in 1554 during the Spanish Conquest.
There is even a legend of conquistador and former Governor of Chile, Francisco de Aguirre planting the first vine himself.
The arrival of some other famous grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Franc and Carmenère were brought over from France during the 19th century.
The first Vines planted in South America were in Peru, in the heights of Cusco, near the ancient Incan city, Machu Picchu. Spanish Colonisers planted the first South American Vines in the 1540s.
As Cusco sits at a height of 3,399m, Winemakers started looking for somewhere new to plant Vines, settling on the city of Ica, with a lower altitude, making it easier to harvest grapes, today it is one of the most popular Wine regions in Peru.
Like many South American countries, Colombia started growing vines after the Spanish conquistadores, it was the Jesuit missionaries that brought with them the first vines over 400 years ago.
It was harder to find a date for Uruguay’s Wine origin, but it has been in operation for a least 250 years, it wouldn’t be until 1870, with the help of Italian and Basque immigrants with the planting of the Tannat grape that the modern Uruguayan Wine industry started to really grow.
The first Grapevines were planted in Bolivia in the 1560s by Spanish missionaries, which were brought over on Spanish ships.
The tropical environment in particular regions really tested some of the Grape varieties, but they found that the high-altitude plains in the Andean mountain served as a very fitting location for viticulture.
The first bottle of Wine made in Bolivia was in the region of Mizque.
Spanish Jesuit missionaries planted the vines from Europe in the soils of Paraguay near the end of the 16th century.
The Grape variety was Vitis Vinifera, their aim was to create a self-sufficient Christian community.
Normally after a country becomes Independence, Wine starts to flourish, but in Paraguay’s case, it did the opposite, the Wine industry basically died out, and it would take until 1908 when a German Winegrower by the name of Carlos Voigt started planting Grapes in the province of Guiará before it started again.
During their time of not making Wine, they imported all the Wine they needed.
Venezuela started growing Vines very quickly, evidence suggests as early as 1515 with a collective of Franciscan monks when they settled on the banks of the Manzanares River.
Wine and religion have very strong connections throughout history, so it didn’t take them long before planting Vines to start making Wine.
South Africa’s first Vineyard was planted in Cape Town in 1655 and in 1659 on the 2nd of February, the first bottle of Wine was made, with these grapes.
The first Vineyard was planted by the first Governor of Cape, Jan van Riebeeck, along with help from his fellow Dutch settlers.
Winemaking in India dates back to the Bronze Age, it’s believed that the Persians traded Vines and Winemaking knowledge with the Indians.
When Wine was first made in India, it was made for local consumption, for families over dinner or quiet times with friends. It would take until the 19th century when the British ruled India for Indian Winemaking to become more common amongst a wider variety of people.
The first written evidence of Indian Winemaking was near the end of the 4th century BC with the writings of Chanakya, who was the chief minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.
As far back as 718 AD the Japanese people have been growing Grapes, we just don’t exactly when they started making Wine.
The first documented evidence of Winemaking in Japan comes during the 16th century when Portuguese Jesuit Missionaries landed in Japan, the leader, Saint Francis Xavier presented gifts to the Japanese feudal lords of Kyūshū, including bottles of European Wine.
We know for sure that Wine was being made during the Meiji era from 1868 to 1912 and that the Grape verity called Koshu was being planted and harvested.
When we look at one of Japan’s famous and traditional drinks, Saké, which is a Wine made from Rice, started production back during the 3rd century BC with the first written record of the word Saké coming from the 3rd century AD. We can only confirm that the manufacture of the drink started in the 8th century AD, although it’s believed to have started before.
The first Vines planted in new Zealand are credited to an English Preist by the name of Samuel Marsden, in his diary, on the 25th of September 1819, he wrote down that he planted a vine in the rich grounds of the Stone Store, Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands.
A very simple answer to the question thanks to the writings of Samuel Marsden.
Governor Arthur Phillip brought with him the first Vines to Sydney in 1788 and planted them in Farm Cove.
In 1833 a man by the name of James Busby, born in Edinburgh, brought with him Vine cuttings from France and Spain when he visited Australia, he is the one that introduced Shiraz and Grenache to the country.
Australia’s Wine production focused mainly on sweet, fortified Wines at the beginning, it would take a time during the 1960s before they would start focusing on table Wines.
There you have it, probably the largest list of the History of Wines in 45 different countries around the world, hope you’ve learned something, I sure did when researching this article, there is a lot more you can explore about Wine and Sparkling Wines here on Glass of Bubbly, so feel free to have a look around.
Thank you for reading and until next time, Enjoy the Wine!
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Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.