It’s not strange that wine is known as the nectar of the Gods. Their food and drink were called by the collective name “ambrosia” but if I have to be more preciseI should say that their food was ambrosia while they drank wine named nectar which was brought to them in Olympus by doves and pigeons.
The ancient Greek God of fertility, wine and ecstasy was Dionysos (or Dionysus), as we all know. He had two “personalities” and he played two different roles. He was the deity closely connected with crops, harvest and the change of the seasons. But at the same time he was the patron of madness, drunkenness and unrestrained behavior. His origins are quite uncertain. According to some sources Dionysus comes from the east (Asia) or from the south (Ethiopia) and even from the north (Thrace). There are also theories that relate the God to Minoan Crete where the Minoans produced wines. Although their wines were not so valued in the classical Hellenic period, they became highly appreciated and greatly exported to the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD.
Aside from the ancient Cretan sweet wine called protropos from the south, the ancient Romans also got amphorae of wines from the north Trier (in today’s Germany) and from the areas along the Moselle (the river that flows through today’s France, Luxembourg and Germany). Amphorae themselves are thought to have been produced (only) in the workshops of Campania (somewhere between today’s Lazio and Naples) in the centuries before Christ. And again Campania and more precisely the Vesuvian slopes were the most preferred place for long and pleasant walks of the ancient Roman God of wine – Bacchus who was, actually, adopted from Ellada. Nowadays the region is among the greatest Italian winemakers and exporters and Campania wine industry focuses on the replanting of the ancient Pompeiian vineyards.
Other wine producing regions of Italy that are famous worldwide are certainly Tuscany with its Chianti (the wine is historically distributed in pretty squat bottles put in straw baskets), Veneto with the dry white wine Soave, and Sicily – with Nero d’Avola.
Apart from Italy, all other Mediterranean countries without any exception are among the most famous winemakers worldwide and are known for the quality of their wines. There’s no doubt that the leader among them is France with the Champagne region and the French Provence. Wine is integral part of the French culinary culture which is often imposed as a world standard. The country gave sparkling wine to the world. The common belief is that Dom Pérignon invented it but actually, he was only a great contributor to its production and quality. The oldest record of a Champaign wine is Blanquette de Limoux, made by Benedictine Monks who in 1531 bottled the wine long before its initial fermentation had ended. Nowadays Champagne is the trade mark of all wines produced only in the French region that meet a strict set of requirements and any fizzy wine produced outside the region of Champagne is just called sparkling wine or lo spumante (in Italian). And here is a humble list of sparklers which are well known not only in Europe but all over the world: Cava (Spain), Espumante (Portugal), Sekt (Germany), Pezsgő (Hungary), Sovetskoye Shampanskoye (ex-USSR). And some gli spumanti italiani (Italian sparkling wines) are Franciacorta (Lombardy), Asti (Piedmont), Lambrusco (Emilia), Prosecco (Veneto) and Trento DOC.
I mentioned above Mediterranean countries have strong traditions in winemaking. It won’t be fair if I don’t mention the Portuguese Port wine (desert sweet, red wine exclusively produced in the northern regions of the country, especially in Douro Valley) and the Spanish summer beverage Sangria (from wine, slices of fruits, sweetener and some brandy). And yes, Riesling wines should get my attention, too. They are not from the south. Although they originated in the Rhine region (Germany) they have a very particular taste because of their terroir-expressive character and are among the best wines in the world.
Speaking about Germany, a large group of the first German settlers in Australia laid the foundations of vine growing and winemaking in the Barossa Valley on the new continent. Nowadays the region is the most famous and productive, and oldest Australian wine region and the wine is labelled Penfolds Grange.
And I will finish with some extraordinary wines and wine derivatives (for me). I can’t speak about them due to the fact that I’ve never tasted and tried them. I have just stumbled upon their variety in books and articles. So, I will simply enumerate them briefly. Here they are: lavender and dandelion wine, wine chocolate and wine jelly. What would you say, ah? 🙂