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by Fred McMillin
for February 07, 2000

The History of Wine

Dr. Henry Lindeman  
This spring semester at San Francisco State University (Extended Education), I'm teaching a course that spans man's entire romance with wine. Here are some highlights from the last time I gave it. (The wines are different each year.)

100,000 B.C.—Wild grapes are growing in Europe and the Middle East, but Neanderthal Man makes no wine.

40,000 B.C.—Modern Man appears. He can WALK from Franc to England on the ice, an indication that temperatures are a bit too brisk for viticulture.

7000 B.C.—In the Middle East, conditions necessary for organized winemaking have arrived. The ice has gone. Man has learned how to domesticate a plant (barley). The grape will be domesticated soon. Equally important, is the invention of pottery, which will become the first wine containers. (Invention of glass is millennia away.)

6000 B.C.—In the area of Armenia winemaking appears, as do the first vineyards, where domesticated Muscat vines grow. (The class sips a Sutter Home Muscat.)

3000 B.C.—The Egyptians produce the first drawings of winemaking. Also, they are the first to show on the wine container vintage date, source of grapes, winemaker, degree of sweetness, etc. (The class sips a "Cru Des Ptolemes" white table wine from Egypt.)

700 B.C.—Europe's first wine writer, Homer, praises the red wines of northern Greece. (We sip a Limnio red wine from Macedonia in northern Greece.)

A.D. 60—A few years before he ties a protective pillow on his head as he approaches the erupting Mt. Vesuvius, Pliny the Elder praises the Trebulnum grape, renamed Trebbiano by an Italian botanist in 1302. (The class sips a Trebbiano by Ivan Tamas, Livermore Valley.)

A.D. 1200—The crusaders conclude that the best wine in Europe is Commandaria, produced on Cyprus. (We pour a current vintage.)

A.D. 1300—There's grape wine activity in China. Recently, the formula was rediscovered in an ancient book for a legendary wine of the Chinese Imperial Palace. In August, blossoms from the sweet Osmanthus shrub are harvested. They are placed in the wine, which is then aged three years, producing an apricot-like nectar called "Kwee Hwa Chen Chiew" (sweet Osmanthus old wine). The class enjoyed it.

However, none of the above won Best Wine of the Course. That honor went to an earlier vintage of...

Our Wine of the Day

1999 Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay, Australia
Stature—Recent statistics show Bin 65 is the seventh best selling Chardonnay in America.
Origin—British naval surgeon Dr. Henry Lindeman, (pictured), planted his first grape vines north of Sydney in 1843, and only 15 years later won awards in Paris expositions. The winery went on to become the country's largest.
Price—Not to worry. It wins Best Buy awards year after year.


To enroll in the class, phone (415) 405-7700.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created February 2000