The Ancient Origins of Wine

The Ancient Origins of Wine

Water, wine, and the sacred are linked together since ancient times probably because human life is not possible without water; indeed, water is considered as the primordial element in most creation myths. Wine has been recognized a double status, one is secular as it can be used for entertainment or cooking and the other one is spiritual or religious as it is with sacred water; indeed, the alcoholic content of wine has been linked to psychoactive properties, consciousness, and intentioned focused awareness.

The Role of Pottery and Art

In general, scholars consider valid evidence domesticated grapes (self-pollinating) and processing; additionally, the appearance of pottery vessels around 6000 B.C. realized the instruments for producing and keeping the precious liquid.

Wine ancient pottery

Pottery containers decorated on the outside are common in the ancient world. Athenian potters standardized certain styles and sold their wares throughout all the Mediterranean. For instance, kraters were jars with a foot and robust handles used to mix wine and water (above and below calyx kraters dated between 480-320 B.C.). The earliest mosaics have been found in Mesopotamia; around the fourth century B.C., Greeks and Romans employed pebbles and shells to make various illustrations. Early Roman mosaics contained monochromatic designs, archaeologists have found mosaics not just in villa reception rooms, but also in dining rooms and bedrooms.

Winemaking, Elites, and Trade

Winemaking as a process is witnessed by archeological evidence found in Neolithic pottery (~7000–6600 BCE) found in Jiahu, China, and in Hajji Firuz, Iran, containing fermented residuals and tartrate remnants. In Europe, the earliest evidence of wild grapes, dated about 10.000-12.000 years ago, have been found in the caves of Franchthi, Greece, and of Balma de l’Abeurador, France. Like holy water, sacramental wine is considered to be a creation of spiritual or religious elites in direct connection with deities as in the case of the followers of Dionysus and the Christian transubstantiation. Notwithstanding wild grapes were not growing in ancient Egypt, winemaking scenes appeared on tomb walls and offering lists included wine produced in the Nile Delta. Similarly, wine was consumed by the Sumerian upper classes (ca. 3500-3100 B.C.), probably imported from Iran or surroundings; indeed, even if in more recent times, the Greek historian Herodotus describes wine river-shipping from Armenia.

In general, the passion for wine of elites and influent families has not waned with centuries. However, the yeast fermenting wines has been only recently modernized through the introduction of pure starter strains of Mediterranean Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the 1950s and 1960s; indeed, in ancient times wine fermentation relied on naturally-occurring yeasts. Today, such efforts developed into philosophies as the Postmodern Winemaking examining and implementing the 20th Century enological revolution.


Wine and its Origins. Retrieved from

Schwartz, S. A. (2019). Water, Wine and the Sacred, an Anthropological View of Substances Altered by Intentioned Awareness. EXPLORE 2019, Vol. 15, No. 1

The Origins and Ancient History of Wine. Retrieved from

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