Our sincerest best wishes to all our friends. We hope that 2010 deals us all winning hands filled with new and great opportunities.
Let's start the new year with a little wine history...
Just as, most agree, society finds its roots in ancient Mesopotamia, the earliest evidence for the cultivation of grapes and the supervised fermentation into wine is found around 6000 B.C. in the ancient Middle East. In Egypt they recorded the harvest of grapes on the walls of their tombs; bottles of wine were buried with Pharaohs in order that they might celebrate with guests in the afterlife. The people of ancient Greece considered wine a drink of the elite and it was the principal beverage of the Symposia, (an event of entertainment, poetry and the exchange of ideas) immortalized by Plato and the poets of the period.
But it was during the Roman era that wine became popular throughout society. In Roman cities wine bars were set up on almost every street, and the Romans exported wine and winemaking practices to the rest of Europe. Soon, the production and quality of wine in other regions rivaled that of Rome: in 92 A.D., Emperor Domitian decreed that all of the vines in the Cahors region near Bordeaux be pulled out, ostensibly in favor of the wheat cultivation the empire so desperately needed, but possibly also to quell the competition with Italian wine exports.
After the fall of Rome, wine continued to be produced in the Byzantine Empire in the eastern Mediterranean. It spread eastward to Central Asia along the Silk Route; grape wine was introduced into China by the eighth century. But the spread of Islam largely halted the wine industry in North Africa and the Middle East. In Europe, because of the need for wine in the Christian sacraments, winemaking was primarily the business of monasteries. During this same period some winemakers produced stronger, more full bodied wines that replaced sweeter, more ancient wine efforts.
During the Renaissance, the unique qualities and styles of wine from specific wine regions were identified and appreciated by an increasingly sophisticated wine market. By the 18th century the wine trade soared, especially in France where Bordeaux became the best known and dominant producer of fine wines.
In the New World the first successful winemaking occurred in the 19th century. Surprisingly, in America, Ohio was the first region to successfully cultivate grapes for wine but it was soon eclipsed by wine production in California. Similarly at about this time grape cultivation first began in Australia, and in the Old World Champagne was quickly establishing itself as a favorite luxury wine and fortified wines such as ports and sherries became increasingly popular, especially in Britain.
While the wine industry of the 19th century grew and enjoyed great success, there was also a catastrophe late in the 1800's; a pest (Phylloxera) epidemic destroyed many vines in France, a disaster that affected European and French winemaking for decades. The plague was overcome by grafting cuttings of European varietal vines onto disease resistant American and Spanish rootstock.
Winemaking today is a global industry. Modern farming technique and science almost ensures that mass produced wine, as a product, meets uniform standards, though sometimes at the expense of quality and correct varietal flavor. There is good news in the trend back toward more traditional methods of winemaking that will preserve more of the fruits' true character that in turn will produce better wines. In addition there is also a move toward sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming that will produce even better quality grapes with more natural varietal character. Then there are the smaller boutique wineries and the young winemakers that, for many years, have practiced true hands-on growing and fermentation technique delivering delicious and complex wines into the marketplace. Not least, there are always the more sought after bottles, the new and the already well established cult wines made by the rock-star like winemakers from all over the world that always deliver an ultimate wine experience. Yes, 2010 will be a fine year.