Where is wines Eden?
And on the eighth day, God opened a bottle of Yquem, enjoyed the beautiful color, breathed in the wonderful nose, sipped, slurped, savored the fantastic wine and said, IT IS GOOD. My apologies to Biblical scholars everywhere, but the question begs to be asked: where was the first wine appellation?
Join me as we search for wine’s Eden.
From what I found in my research, humanity’s long history of cultivating grapes for wine may have begun in southeast Anatolia, in modern day Turkey. Other possible birthplaces for viticulture are in Transcaucasia – in what is now Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. This area, which includes Anatolia, is known as the Fertile Crescent; the place where history shows humans first domesticated wild grains, became farmers and settled down form our nomadic wanderings.
Using DNA testing scientist Jose Vouillamoz compared DNA profiles of different grape varieties and found a dense concentration of similarities between wild and cultivated grapes in Anatolia. Evidence suggests that grapevines were once abundant in the Fertile Crescent region. The question then becomes: if wild grapes were so abundant why plant vines, why not just gather the wild grapes? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Wild grapes are not easy pickings, at least not the good ones. Wild vines climb trees, making the grapes hard for humans to reach, yet easy for birds and other wildlife. Our ancestor’s knuckles may have dragged on the ground, but they were smart enough to know it’s easier to get grapes if they are at shoulder level rather than 40 feet in the air.
Excavating ancient dumps in Anatolia has unearthed vessels, clearly intended for liquids that date back to 9000 BC (wonder if Rudy Kurniawan has any of that vintage for sale). Scientists speculate that wine production most likely began sometime between 8,000 and 6,000 BC.
Most of the Western European grapes that we know and love were introduced independently from somewhere from the Middle East, Egypt, Turkey or Greece at different times and in different places. They were only a few, about 13, and they are known as the “founders”. These “founders” and their decedents are what we cultivate and enjoy today. All 13 either originated, or are descended from, grapes cultivated in southeast Anatolia, from what were local wild grapes. The 13 “founder” grapes are the Pinot Noir, Gouais Blanc, Savagnin, Cabernet Franc, Mondeuse, Noire, Garganega, Nebbilol, Teroldego, Lugienga, Muscat Blanc a Petis Grains, Cayetana Blanca, Reze and Tribidrag.
As the wine began to flow, there emerged a need to store it. The first wine bottle–and when I say wine bottle I mean a container that chemical analysis has shown to have a residue that contains the chemical compound found in wine–was found in Iran. That bottle dates back to somewhere around 5400 to 5000 BC. Most likely a bottle purchased at a wine tasting event held at a casino in Anatolia.