Wine and Glassare in Egypt and Mesopotamia

Egyptian Artifacts from 400bc

In the story of mankind, wine has a long and distinguished history. Traces of wine were first found in Sumeria, the lower regions of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia held the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and is often called the "cradle of civilization". Wine is mentioned as far back as 2750BC, but existence of wine goes further - now dated at 5400BC. Sumeria as a nation existed from 2500BC - 1900BC. During this time, the people drank quite a bit of wine and beer. Often, the two were inbibed during the same meal or event. Sumerian wines were made from grapes and dates. In their culture, drunkeness was accepted - in their religious stories, even gods got drunk.

Wine is also early in history of the ancient First Dynasty of Egypt (3100bc - 2890bc). Remnants of grapes were found dating to this period. Soon, pictures of wine making operations were used to decorate walls and palaces. There were two stages to making wine back then - the crushing for the free run, followed by pressing. A fermentation stage occurred between these two. The wine then went into amphorae - large pottery vessels with spouts, used for bulk storage and transportation. Amphorae were stoppered with cloth, leather, cork or fired clay, then sealed with mortar.

A smaller hole let out the CO2 as it fermented within, and at some point this hole was also sealed. Amphorae sometimes had flat bottoms, but most of the time the bottom came to a sharp point, which was also used to help carry them. Final fermentation occurred in the amphorae.

Wine production became very organized over the years. Amphorae soon had marks indicating year, maker, source of vineyard, and other information. Wine was popular in higher social circles than beer was, and was used both at parties and for religious festivals. Tomb paintings included depictions of wine.

Wines in Sumeria were classified by types and by 900BC rations were being given to soldiers and travellers. Wine was used for entertaining, medicinal and religious purposes. Wine was imported from other wine producing countries, often in earth jugs. Writings of the time speak of large, wooden barrels of wine being boated from one town to another. Amphorae

Sumeria morphed into Persia, a great nation that grew larger and larger. Persia was also a wine country - salaries were sometimes paid in wine. Young workers did not get this kind of payment, but both men and women did. Women giving birth were given an extra bonus of wine, to encourage the creation of new workers. Herodotus commented that leaders would often reconsider an opinion made while drunk, but would conversely get drunk to reconsider an opinion made while sober!

In 550BC, Darius of Persia - now a large, thriving nation - conquered Egypt, combining together these great cultures. Persia lasted until the death of Alexander the Great in 323, when it dissolved.

Glassware in History Page

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.