Grapes have been a celebrated staple for thousands of years, with a rich history that intertwines through almost all major civilizations Humans began to grow them around 6500 BC in the Black Sea region and Persia. By 4000 BC, grape cultivation had spread across the Mediterranean into Egypt and Greece, as well as into Asia. In ancient Greece, wine was a common drink among most people, including children. The water in Greece was at times so unsafe that wine became a more reliable option, and was enjoyed throughout the day. In Egypt, archeologists have found hieroglyphics depicting grapes and winemaking, as well as jugs of wine inside tombs dating back to 3000 BC.
Grape growing and winemaking in Italy didn’t begin until around 900 BC, but by the time of the Roman Empire, wine had become an Italian staple. Under the influence of the Romans, grape production spread all across Europe, with wine becoming a popular drink. By the end of the Roman empire though, winemaking was mostly associated with monasteries and Christianity. In the bible, grape vines are referenced more than any other plant, and some of Jesus’ most notable miracles included wine.
Today, grapes are grown all across the world, with many different varieties used for various purposes. For example, grapes native to the Americas are far less sweet, but more durable than European varieties, making them better as table grapes or raisins. European grapes are sweeter and better for wine-making, but many Euro-American hybrids have been created to capture the best qualities of both. One third of the world’s vineyards are in either Italy, France or Spain, with Italy producing the most at 4.8 million tons of wine per year.