Ancient Italians Taught the French How to Make Wine

Though their grape smashing continues to hold authority across the globe, French wine-makers once had to be taught how to grow, stomp, swill their grapes. Molecular analysis of ancient wine pots and presses in the south of France indicates that the Italians instructed the French on the best methods to turn a delicious snack food into a refined grape beverage.

Leading this world-churning expose is a man, who is referred to as the "Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages" on his professor bio page—Dr. Patrick McGovern. Working in the south of France, McGovern-Indiana-Jones oversaw a brave team of molecular archeologists to trace which culture got to the grapes first.

It was in Southern France that McGovern-Indiana-Jones and his team pored over some molecules to analyze—namely the grime that festers in the bottom of wine glasses, but thousands of years old. They discovered wine in southern France that dated from about 500-475 BC. However, the Indiana-Jones-Booze-Team believes this beverage was imported as the pots were Etruscan and herbal and pine resin was most likely added to keep it fresh during transit. They estimate the the first French vintage dates to 425 BC.

The Eurasian grape, vitis vinifera, was first domesticated about 9,000 years ago. After transforming the grapes into a sophisticated fruit beverage, Greek and Phoenician merchants knew their favorite drink was too delicious to keep to themselves. They got in some boats, brought their vino aboard, and helped to set up vineyards in central Italy in the eighth century BC.

The party hop continued about two hundred years later, when the Italians were like let's show this off. McGovern confirms they made like the Phoenicians, "building ships and carrying their wine over to southern France." Upon first sipping this vinous liquid, the ancient French were like eh, but of course, we must make this into something—how do you say—drinkable? acceptable? So, the ancient French acquired some grapevines and most likely working "under Estruscan tutelage," they started to produce wine in Southern France.

In the centuries later, vinous Indiana Jones confirms that the French established the "world's standard" for winemaking, setting in centuries of beverage superiority.

[The Salt | NPR, image via Bunyos30, Shutterstock]

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