Origins of Viniculture

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

The beginning of viniculture, encompassing both viticulture and winemaking, cannot have begun where our species, Homo sapiens sapiens, originated in sub-Saharan Africa. While our ancestors might have exploited other high-sugar fruits (e.g. fig and marula) for fermented beverages, the wild Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera sylvestris; see wild vines) did not grow there. Only when humans came ‘out of Africa’, 60,000-100,000 years ago, did they encounter the grape. This occurrence, so auspicious for the future cultural and technological history of humanity, probably took place in the area of modern Lebanon, the southernmost point where wild vines grow in the Near East today and probably for the last 100,000 years.