Wine has been with us since the beginning of civilization. It is the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic, mealtime beverage recommended in the Bible. Wine has been praised for centuries by statesmen, philosophers, poets and scholars.Wine in moderation is an integral part of our culture, heritage and the gracious way of life.
It is hard to be clear about what early wine would have been like. It seems likely that most wine was red and it is probable that it was not the crystal clear liquid we drink today but was fairly hazy. It was almost certainly of a comparatively low alcohol (perhaps 8–10% a.b.v.), at least until methods such as late harvesting to develop sweeter wines became common. In the heat of Mediterranean countries it could rapidly spoil,so that vinegary or dull,oxidized wines were doubtless common. Wine would often have been blended before use (possibly with herbs, spices or other flavourings), and may well have been watered down. The Romans were certainly flavouring wine with wormwood, roses and violets, although in the case of roses the petals had to be steeped in the wine for 21 days, suggesting substantial oxygen contact. Possibly the flavouring was essential to hide the otherwise oxidative nature of the wine.
Most modern wine is made from the grapevine species known as Vitis vinifera (literally the ‘winemaking grape’). This was the only species of grape growing naturally in the Middle-East at the time when plants were first domesticated. New grape varieties can be produced by crossing two existing varieties: pinotage, widely planted in South Africa, has cinsault and pinot noir as its parents.