How Old is Wine?
Quiz for today: Who was drinking wine first? Egyptians? Armenians? Chinese? Margaret River-ites? Well, not to say future discoveries couldn’t shed new light on the subject, but the evidence so far points to the Chinese.
In 2004, wine residue was found in 9,000 year old pottery in China (see Patrick Edward McGovern “the Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines and Extreme Beverages”). The fermented beverage consisted of fruit, honey, and rice. An ancient wine cellar inside a cave in the side of a hill in Armenia dates back to 3500 BC. And Egyptian high society drank wine while the commoners drank beer.
The Margaret River wine region, by contrast, is relatively new to the wine game. The region’s first trial vines were planted in 1967. But by 1972 wines from the region were winning awards. By some estimates, today 20% of Australia’s premium wines hail from Margaret River.
We visited a showcase winery, Voyager Estate, which we loved for its (South African) Cape Dutch architecture, rose garden and general beauty. Some quick fun facts about Voyager Estate and its founder, Michael Wright:
- Michael Wright was a teetotaler
- He drove his beloved Volvo for 360,000 before moving on to a Ford Falcon
- Upon his death in 2012, his net worth was > $1 billion, (according to one report, more than the value of the car division of Volvo at the time of his death)
- He acquired the name and trademark of the Dutch East India Company — Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) in 1995
- The VOC Collection wines bear the VOC mark of international trade, a tribute to the role that the Dutch East India Company played in the exploration of the Australian coastline
- Voyager Estate’s Cape Dutch Cellar Door and gardens are inspired by the wine farms near Cape Town, South Africa, which was originally a supply port for VOC ships heading for Asia via Australia’s west coast
And in the Americas? The oldest winery is in Mexico. Casa Madero is in Parras de la Fuente, a tiny fertile valley in Coahuila, Mexico which is the Northeastern Mexican state next to the Texas border. Looks like a future road trip is in order!
Who can guess the year of establishment of the first winery in the US (without Googling it!)? Find the answer here: of French origin, of course.