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A History of Wine

Specialty grapes have been cultivated for wine production for hundreds of years.(The following history borrows heavily from Wikipedia)

Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest wine production came from sites in Georgia and Iran, dating from 6000 to 5000 BC. The archaeological evidence becomes clearer, and points to domestication of grapevine, in Early Bronze Age sites of the Near East, Sumer and Egypt from around the third millennium BC.

The very oldest known evidence suggesting wine production in Europe and second oldest in the world comes from archaeological sites in Greece and is dated to 6,500 years ago. The same archaeological sites in Greece also contain remnants of the world’s earliest evidence of crushed grapes. In fact, Greek sources as well as Pliny the Elder describe how the ancient Greeks used partly dehydrated gypsum before fermentation and some type of lime after fermentation to reduce acidity. The Greek writer Theophrastus is actually the oldest known source to describe this aspect of Greek wine making.

In Egypt, wine became a part of recorded history, playing an important role in ancient ceremonial life. Wine was possibly introduced into Egypt by the Ancient Greeks. Traces of wine were also found in China, dating from the second and first millennium BCE.

Wine was common in classical Greece and Rome. The Ancient Greeks introduced vines such as Vitis vinifera and made wine in their numerous colonies in Italy, Sicily, southern France, and Spain. Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and revelry, and wine was frequently referred to in the works of Homer and Aesop. The Romans established many of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe. Wine making technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman Empire. Many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were known, and barrels were developed for storing and shipping wine.

Since Roman times, wine (potentially mixed with herbs and minerals) was assumed to serve medicinal purposes as well. During Roman times it was not uncommon to dissolve pearls in wine for better health. Cleopatra created her own legend by promising Marc Anthony she would "drink the value of a province" in one cup of wine, after which she drank an expensive pearl with a cup of wine. Another medieval application was the use of snake-stones (banded Agate resembling the figural rings on a snake) dissolved in wine against snake bites.

In medieval Europe, the Christian Church was a staunch supporter of wine which was necessary for the celebration of the Catholic Mass. In places such as Germany, beer was banned and considered pagan and barbaric while wine consumption was viewed as civilized and a sign of conversion. Wine was also forbidden in the Islamic civilization.

A History of Champagne

(The following history borrows heavily from Wikipedia)

Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. Churches owned vineyards and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims and champagne wine was served as part of coronation festivities.

Kings appreciated the still, light, and crisp wine, and offered it as an homage to other monarchs in Europe. In the 17th century, still wines of Champagne were the wines for celebration in European countries. The English were the biggest consumers of Champagne wines.

The first commercial sparkling wine was produced in the Limoux area of Languedoc about 1535. Around 1700, sparkling Champagne, as we know it today, was born. There is documentary evidence that sparkling wine was first intentionally produced by English scientist and physician Christopher Merrett at least 30 years before the work of Dom Perignon who, contrary to legend and popular belief, did not invent sparkling wine.

Although the French monk Dom Perignon did not invent champagne, it is true he developed many advances in the production of this beverage, including holding the cork in place with a wire collar to withstand the fermentation pressure. It is believed champagne was created accidentally, yet others believe that the first champagne was made with rhubarb but was changed because of the high cost.

Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate champagne with high luxury, festivities and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with an emerging middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility.

In 1866 the famous entertainer and star of his day, George Leybourne, began a career of making celebrity endorsements for Champagne. The Champagne maker Moët commissioned him to write and perform songs extolling the virtues of Champagne, especially as a reflection of taste, affluence, and the good life. He also agreed to drink nothing but Champagne in public. Leybourne was seen as highly sophisticated and his image and efforts did much to establish Champagne as an important element in enhancing social status. It was a marketing triumph, the results of which endure to this day.

In the 1800s Champagne was noticeably sweeter than modern Champagne is today, with the Russians preferring Champagne as sweet as 300 grams per litre. The trend towards drier Champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut Champagne, the modern Champagne, was created for the British in 1876.

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