European Wine History and Wine Regions
By Go2 Winery
As soon as one mentions wine, Europe is the continent that everyone thinks of. Specifically, France is the country that comes to our minds first when someone talks about wine. This is because European countries have a vast and rich history associated to wine. This is why wines from Europe are known as Old World wines and wines from places like California and New Zealand are referred to as New World wines.
Europe fiercely guards its wine-making traditions and many people still prefer Old World wines even though so much has been said about New World wines. European winemakers do not prefer the glitz and glamor of New World wine touring methods and there are European families that have been making wine for centuries.
History of European wines
The earliest evidence of wine making was discovered in ancient Mesopotamia in 6000 BC. Evidence suggests that juices were extracted from grapes and were then left to ferment to create alcoholic wines. The early Egyptians also made wine and recorded the process and the harvesting of grapes on the walls of their tombs. Wine was held in high regard in ancient Egypt and pharaohs were buried with bottles of wine. Although wine has its roots in ancient Africa and Middle East, it is in Europe that wine making and drinking truly thrived.
In Europe, it was the Greeks who increased the consumption of wine and made it a drink of the aristocratic and elite classes. Wine was also immortalized by Plato and other Greek poets of the time and it was a very important component of the symposia. The Greeks also increased the cultivation of vines and during that period, vines were being cultivated in the Mediterranean regions. Wine was also being exported by the Etruscans to the inland and the north during this time.
Wine became even more popular with the Romans and they are the ones who truly allowed anyone to be able to drink wine. Streets in Roman cities were lined with wine bars and soon all the regions conquered by Rome were cultivating, making and drinking wine and this is who wine making spread to the rest of Europe.
Wine-making continued in the Byzantine Empire after the fall of the Roman Empire and slowly spread to Asia due to the Silk Route. However, the spread of Islam lead to the decline of the wine industry in Asia whereas it continued to thrive in Europe as wine was being in monasteries as it was needed in Christian ceremonies. This is also the period where wines were becoming stronger and more full-bodied compared to the sweeter wines that were drunk earlier and that were also often mixed with water.
During the Renaissance, people began to appreciate the characteristics of wine from different regions. By the 18th century, France became the centre of the wine trade where business soared and the region of Bordeaux became the most important wine growing region.
Some of the best wine regions in Europe
- Bordeaux, France – Located in the southwest of France, Bordeaux is the largest wine growing region in the world. Bordelais is the preferred grape here that has been cultivated and fermented for centuries. Saint Émilion is the most important wine producing town in this region.
- Tuscany, Italy – Tuscany is known for its beautiful weather and food and also its excellent wines. The most noteworthy wine regions of Tuscany are Chianti, Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Carmignano. Florence and Siena are two of the most important wine producing cities in this region.
- Rhône Valley, France – The Rhône Valley may not be as famous as the other wine regions in France but it is often preferred by wine connoisseurs. The wines from this region are rich, dark and deep. Rhône Valley is a large region that is made up wine growing territories like Lyon, northern Côtes du Rhône, Avignon , Orange and southern Côtes du Rhône. The best place to sample wines from the region is Tain-l’Hermitage.
- Mosel, Germany – Germany is usually associated with beer and is often ignored by those looking for European wines. The Mosel region in Germany produces excellent wines allowing Germany to rank fourth after France, Italy and Spain among the best wine producing countries in Europe. The train system is excellent in Germany so you can explore Mosel more closely.
- La Rioja, Spain – The grape of Spain is Tempranillo and this is grown extensively in the La Rioja region in northern Spain. The wines from this region are strong and full bodied and are aged for a long time in oak barrels. Wines from La Rioja are paired with Tapas and if you want to sample them, spend some time in Logrono. Logrono is easily accessible but you need to reserve your train tickets early on.
Helping connect communities and business owners to the wine industry.
Tracy Lee Thomas
All We Do Is Wine
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