History and tradition in a bottle

Posted on: 3rd November, 2014

Category: The Wine Buff

Contributor: Tony Eklof

Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France. westcorkwinebuff@gmail.com

Some appreciation of the long history and tradition associated with wine and wine making might help to enhance the enjoyment of your evening glass of wine. There is archaeological evidence of wine making in Georgia in the Caucasus and in ancient Persia as far back as 5000 BC. Evidence of a winery, complete with wine press, vats and jars has been uncovered in Armenia, dating from 4,100 BC. Myths and stories involving wine abound in the Bible, in Greek mythology, and in Persian legends. Wine culture thrived in Greece and there was even a God of wine, Dionysus, later known in Rome as Bacchus. Did you know that the modern names Dion, Dionne, and the Russian Deniska are all derived from Dionysus as is the popular Cork name Dennis!

The ancient Phoenecians with their impressive trade routes played a major role in spreading wine technology throughout the entire Mediterranean area.

It was during the Roman Empire that the great wine producing areas of Italy and the former Roman provinces were established.

Wine became a common part of the Roman diet, (for men, but not for women!)

During the Middle Ages a split between north and south developed whereby in the south wine drinking became widespread as the cultivation of grapes increased, while in the north the drink of the common man was more likely to be beer or ale. It was during this time that many religious orders, such as the Benedictines, the Carthusians and the Templars became important producers of wine.

Not surprisingly the old world wine producing countries pay more heed to tradition than their new world counterparts. I was fortunate enough to find myself in Saint Emilion one Autumn and witnessed the impressive official opening of the harvest by colourfully robed ‘Jurats’ who gather at the top of a castle each year for the ‘Harvest Proclamation’, a tradition dating back to 1199.

So after considering all this, a Bordeaux wine dating back to the glorious vintage of 1995 doesn’t seem so old after all. However, I wouldn’t recommend anything from the 4,100 BC vintage — it is bound to have gone off.


Recommendations: Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi, 2012 — Delicious dry Italian white in an attractive, distinctive bottle. €12 on special in SuperValu, Clonakilty. Mayne de Beauregard, Bergerac, 2013. — Young, very drinkable red Bordeaux type wine from one of my personal favourite regions. On offer in Marks and Spencer, Cork, around €10.

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