A very brief history of green wine

California vineyard rows

The briefest version: Winemaking from the days of the Pharaohs and the Greek gods until recent times was all green. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides (DDT) didn’t materialize until around World War II.

The slightly less brief version: Years ago I experienced an epiphany of sorts, with a taste of an 1864 Port wine in Villa Nova De Gaia, Portugal. What impressed me most was not its remarkable color and nutty flavor after all those years, but its historical essence. Imagine the stories that wine could tell after nearly 140 years of captivity! Wars, nation building, business deals, floods, famine, celebrations, idle gossip. I almost felt ashamed to drink it. (I got over my guilt rather quickly.)

Green Wine Country by Green Traveler GuidesWinemaking has been part of living and social exchange since early man found a way to ferment grains, fruits and various plants. It is believed that some of the first vineyards were in Armenia and what today is Iran. It was the Egyptians who took wine to a higher level, but not quite as a consumer staple. They were a little elite in their distribution and kept the good stuff for the kings, queens and potentates of the kingdom. It was during the heyday of the Greeks, around the 6th century B.C., that wine consumption took off. The Greeks used their god Dionysius as wine’s spokesperson. The Romans started their own ad campaign around 200 B.C. under the marketing savvy of their own god of wine, Bacchus. The result was that wine became an essential beverage of choice throughout the Roman Empire, with vineyard planting a key priority whenever you conquered a foe.

Jumping ahead: winemaking and vineyard cultivation in North America can be credited in large part to the Catholic Church and the fearless Spanish explorers who ravaged the land and native populations while planting vines for the future—if only they knew what they started. In the U.S. today there are more than 6,500 wineries, nearly 3,000 of them in California alone. A growing percentage of these are combining the latest vintner technologies with a return to winemaking’s historical roots—serving as virtual timeline to the past as well as a magical portal to future. The same thing is happening, to one degree or another, in winemaking regions around the world. And thus we are blessed with an incredible opportunity for green wine appreciation and tourism.—Roger Archey, Contributing Editor