Wine in the bible

“And Noah began to be husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: and he drank of the wine, and was drunken”. This is the first biblical mention of that plant to which Old and New Testaments continually refer in numerous allegories, parables, symbolic references and stories.


The history of vine in actual fact, however, goes back much further. From the many earliest times, it has figured strongly in Eastern mythology. Particularly with the legend of Dionysus which spread from Asia to Egypt, through Thrace and the Mediterranean lands.

The worship of Dionysus, or Bacchus, by his initiates went far beyond mere veneration for the creator and patron of the vine and wine. In Athens, it furnished occasions for large-scale festivities, called the Dionysia, with processions, carousing and plays. In Rome, one day of the year was dedicated to Bacchus.

Wine Illustrations

Wine has inspired a wealthy of pictorial representation. An Assyrian bas-relief depicts two figures drinking against a setting of vine branches and grapes.  An Egyptian tomb decoration accurately illustrates the order of viticultural tasks, the grape harvest and the cellar work. Writing tablets uncovered in Carthage, Tunis and Morocco supply us with similar information.

Wine Literature

Wine occupies a regal place in the literature of every age. Centuries before Christ, Homer refers to the most famous vineyards in ancient Greece. He gives details concerning cellaring and drinking customs. Also, notably Virgil has made a valuable contribution to the history of wine. Thanks to the works of such writers as the poet Hesiod, the historian Herodotus and Xenophon and the geographer Strabo, we know where the vineyards were located in ancient times.

Roman Empire

Reaching Gaul in the wake of the Roman armies, viticulture spread up the banks of the Rhone as far as Lyons. It swept beyond Burgundy, and on the Rhine. At the same time, the vine reached Bordeaux. But Rome suffered the repercussions of this expansion. Both the overproduction and the competition resulted in falling prices. The slump led the Emperor Domitian to order vines to be pulled up in some regions.

At the same time, laws, regulations and prohibitions regarding wine making, trading and shipping started to develop. Such measures were not dissimilar to those put into practice much later, in the Middle Ages, and even in modern times. In Asia vineyards flourished on the shores of the Persian Gulf, in Babylonia, in Assyria, on the shores of Caspian, the Black Sea and the Aegean, in Syria and Phoenicia. Palestine, the homeland of the legendary Canaan grape, possessed a whole range of renowned wines.

The fall of the Roman Empire

In spite of these crises and hazards, viticulture prospered, reaping the benefit of the Pax Romana, nor was affected by the fall of the Roman Empire and the disturbed period ensued. The Church had taken affairs in hand. The bishop, master of the city, was its vine grower and cellar man. Not only must enough wine be produced for Holy Communication but also to pay homage to the monarchs and high-ranking dignitaries who broke their journeys at the town. Most important of all, there were the episcopal funds to be kept supplied. Kings, dukes and feudal lords were not long in following the example set by the monks and the Princes of Church. Vines bordered the castles while wine retained all its former prestige.

Growth of bourgeoisie

With the growth of the bourgeoisie, many of the vineyards around the towns passed into the hands of rich citizens. From the early Middle Ages, especially in France but also in Italy and the regions bordering on the Rhine, viticulture part in the extensive development of the communities, the sovereign granting various rights, franchises and privileges to the wine producers and hence to the municipal authorities. This explains why the pages of the history of wine are often turned by political events.

Early Modern Europe

As early as Renaissance, the map of European vineyards corresponded very closely to today’s. Colonization and the spread of Christianity brought viticulture to countries overseas, such as Latin-America, Mexico, California, South Africa; or gave it new impetus, as in Algeria. As in all other Muslim countries, viticulture has been curbed by the teaching of the Koran which forbade the use of alcohol. Nonetheless, twelve centuries after Mohammed, Algeria was among the leading wine producing countries.

Modern Times

Among the many vicissitudes in the history of the vine and wine, the diseases and parasites brought from America in the middle of the last century were the most deadly. But man’s inequity and perseverance invariably found a way to overcome all such calamities.

During the nineteenth century, wine-making methods were greatly improved, and today they have reached an almost scientific degree of perfection. In this age wine has retained all its former prestige. Closely linked with the origin of our civilization, it presents one of its proudest and most pacific achievements. Wine is still the most gracious and the noblest drink of all.

Source:  The Great Book of Wine