Although details are understandably sketchy, it is believed that, around 6000 BC, grapes were being grown and wine was being made in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq).
Mesopotamia and Egypt
Wine was popular with the pharaohs of ancient Egypt from about 3000 BC onwards. Inscriptions and illustrations of grape harvesting and wine making have been found in a number of tombs.
Many temples had vineyards attached to them and it is thought that wine was used for religious ritual purposes. However, as is still true today, the majority of Egyptian wine was produced in the Nile delta area.
Wine was stored in clay jars, as wooden barrels were unknown to the ancient Egyptians.
The exact date that winemaking started in Greece is unknown. However, the remains of a stone wine press, dating from around 1600BC, have been found at a villa in Crete. Wine consumption in ancient Greece had strong associations with the cult of the god, Dionysos. With the rise of Greek influence throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas, vines were introduced to areas as far apart as Spain, France, Italy and Georgia. It is believed that a number of traditional southern Italian grape varieties (e.g. Aglianico) were introduced by the Greeks.
The Romans continued the developments started by the Greeks. Wine was exported to all parts of the Roman Empire including France, Britain and the Rhineland area of Germany. Vineyards were also planted in many of these areas. The Romans documented different grape varieties and the types of soil that produced the highest yields. They also introduced wooden barrels and glass bottles to the wine trade, although these items didn't completely replace clay amphorae for wine storage.
During the Dark Ages, vineyards were maintained by the monasteries as a source of communion wine. These wine producers laid the foundations for much of today's modern wine industry throughout Europe.
Since Neil Best first pondered the question, Who made the first wine anyway? he's been recording his findings at Good Glug. This article forms part of the new and free Good Glug Wine Appreciation Mini Course. Visit now to get your copy.