Ancient Times: Aged Wines and Connoisseurship

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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As I write, the earliest evidence we have for wine made from grapes, residues at the bottom of a pot found in western Iran, dates from around 6000 BCE. From 3000 BCE on, wine was a prominent part of trade in western Asia and Egypt. Wild grapes and the first wines were red, but the Egyptians had a color mutant of the grape plant and made white wines from it. They would ferment grape juice in large clay jars. The contents of the jars were eventually sampled and graded, and the jars marked, stoppered, and sealed with mud. The airtight containers allowed wine to be aged for years. Many wine amphoras found in the tombs of the pharaohs carry labels with the date of production, the region in which the wine was made, sometimes a brief description and the name of the winemaker. Wine connoisseurship is ancient!