If you haven’t seen this before on Economist, then here I reproduce it with the citation to Economist. We looked at the french cuisine earlier. French cuisine, wine and architecture is well celebrated all around the world. Well, we know that architecture came from Italy and we may know little deeper if we dig out where Italy got its architecture. Then French cuisine was revolutionized by La Varenne, Francois Pierre and Marquis d’Uxcelles. Now this story brings how France ended up at the pinnacle of the wine producing world.
FRANCE sits at the pinnacle of the wine world. Its characteristic regional styles—including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone blends and Champagne—are imitated by winemakers around the globe. But in the grand scheme of things France is a relative latecomer to viticulture. Winemaking began in the Zagros mountains of northern Iran in the 6th millennium BC, and then spread throughout the Near East to the Mediterranean. But how and when did knowledge of winemaking arrive in France? Evidence unearthed by a team led by Patrick McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, provides the most detailed answer so far.
Dr McGovern is known as the Indiana Jones of ancient alcoholic drinks, as a result of his pioneering use of molecular archaeology to uncover ancient examples of beer and wine. He has found the oldest examples of winemaking jars (dated to 5400-5000BC), has recreatedthe funerary drink of King Midas and identified the remains of the earliest known fermented beverage in the world, a drink made from rice, honey and fruit in China around 9,000 years ago. His latest results, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are based on analysis of a stone pressing-platform (pictured) and several large pottery jars, or amphoras, found at the ancient port of Lattara in southern France, south of the modern city of Montpellier.
Many of the amphoras found at Lattara have a distinctive design that indicates that they were made in the Etruscan city of Cisra, which corresponds to the modern Italian city of Cerveteri, around 500BC. By analysing the residues in these amphoras, the researchers verified that they were used to transport wine—and that the wine had, moreover, been resinated with pine and flavoured with herbs. Etruscan shipwrecks along the French coast indicate that such amphoras were being imported into France from around 625BC. More strikingly, the limestone pressing-platform found in Lattara, which dates to around 425BC, also tested positive for tartaric acid residue, indicating that it was used to press grapes (rather than, say, olives). This is the earliest evidence for winemaking ever found in France. It suggests that people living on France’s Mediterranean coast acquired a taste for wine from Etruscan traders, and then established their own industry starting around 500BC, probably using grapevines and expertise brought in from Etruria.
That said, it is also possible that winemaking was introduced to France by Greeks from Phocaea, who established the colony of Massalia (modern Marseilles) around 600BC, but so far no winemaking equipment from this early period has been found in Marseilles. Dr McGovern notes that the hold of an Etruscan ship wrecked off the southern coast of France between 515-475BC was filled with grapevines, along with amphoras of the type found in Lattara. This is consistent with his theory that the seeds of France’s wine industry, which now bestrides the world, arrived by sea 2,500 years ago from central Italy.
Thanks to Economist.com for the great piece of article. Original article can be accessed here