WINES……MORE THAN JUST DINNER COMPLIMENTS
The art of wine making dates back hundreds of years. Every glass of wine your savor is a testament of the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into its production. It’s the season of love again-be rest assured that couples all over the world will be musing over the journey so far and what lies ahead for them over a bottle of wine. Wines are the first choice for any formal gathering. In fact, the choice of wine served at any occasion tells much about the host’s knowledge of wines and even places that individual (or group) at a particular social stratum. To understand the level of influence that wines have on man’s culture, one needs to understand the origin and history of wine and wine making. One needs to learn and appreciate the uses of wine across cultures and religions all over the world. This article is merely a brief summary of the intriguing world of wines.
The English word “wine” comes from the Proto-Germaic “winam”, an early version of the Latin version “vinum” meaning wine or grape vine. The earliest attested terms referring to wine are the Mycenaean Greek words “me-tu-wo ne-wo” meaning “in (the month)” or “(festival) of the new wine” and “wo-no-wa-ti-si” meaning “wine garden”. In more modern days, the word wine was not enough to name the product because of the increase in the varieties available. For instance, fruit wines are named according to the fruits from which they are produced. The name of the fruit was a prefix before the word wine for example “applewine”. For those made from barley and other starch materials, the word wine was used to represent alcoholic content rather that depict the raw material used or production process.
The earliest traces of what we refer to as wine dates back to 6000 BC. According to archaeological findings, the earliest known production of wine from fermenting grapes was during the late Neolithic or early Chalcolithic period specifically in a particular region of Georgia. The fact that Georgia is also the earliest discovered site containing shards of wine-stained pottery adds more credibility to the discovery. A report by archaeologists in 2003 indicates that in the 7th millennium BC, China was the site of a mixed fermented beverage (a combination of grapes and rice). At about 750 BC, wine culture began to spread westwards. This was mostly due to the Phoenicians, a people considered to be the first great wine traders. Soon, references to wine were made in Greek literature, Indian writings and among the Romans.
It is common knowledge that wines are important beverages that compliment a wide range of world cuisines but their values goes beyond being a palatable addition to the dinner table. Wines are also flavor agents and are often used in stocks and while braising. The wine sauce is an example of a culinary sauce which uses wine as a primary ingredient. In Ancient Egypt, wine was used for special ceremonies and libations. This culture has not changed much in modern days. The type of wine used depends on the occasion and the prevalent wine culture of the people. Most people in our part of the world like to use sparkling wine (or what we like to call champagne). Wine has an important significance in world religion. In Judaism, such ceremonies as the Peach (Passover) and the Sabbath are incomplete without wine. In Christianity, wine (or a drink meant to represent wine) is used in the Eucharist. In Islam however, the consumption of wine is forbidden except if it does not cause intoxication in any way.
Wine has also found its way into the world of Medicine. Several studies have suggested that drinking moderate amount of wine especially the red variety, decreases cardio-vascular illnesses. During animal studies, a chemical in red wines (which is also found in grapes, peanuts and blueberries) called resveratrol has been shown to have both cardio-protective and chemo-protective effects. A 2007 study a study found that both red and white wine are effective antibacterial agents against strains of Streptococcus. A report in the October 2008 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention suggests that moderate consumption of red wine may decrease the risk of lung cancer.
In the area neurological medicine, a study showed that wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. On the down side, wines have been shown to cause more damage to the hippocampus (a brain area involved in memory processes) more than any other alcoholic beverage. Yes, wine consumption does have some adverse effects on the human body. It increase risks of developing certain kinds of cancer and can complicate Asthma cases. Excessive consumption of alcoholic wine, like all other alcoholic beverages, damages the liver and other vital organs in the human body.
Wines have come a long way in human history. They still greatly influence popular culture and individual habits of people. Its worth goes beyond any finite quantity. As you enjoy your favorite bottle this Valentine season, appreciate its true essence and significance.