Five turning points in the evolution of wine

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https://www.sapiens.org/archaeology/evolution-wine/

INTRO: Contrary to popular belief, the evolution of wine precedes agriculture and the domestication of grapes. The genesis of wine may even predate our species. Over the millennia, humans have radically transformed viticulture from a happy accident to a scientifically precise art form and global industry. At the same time, the juice of fermented fruits shaped us—our religions and rituals, our economies, and even our genes.

This most human and ancient of beverages is ripe for anthropological investigation. Archaeologists have excavated an Armenian cave that’s home to the world’s oldest-known winery, analyzed residue from 9,000-year-old Chinese pots in search of the chemical signature of grapes, and dove into the ocean to examine Greek wine amphorae in a shipwreck. Meanwhile, sociocultural anthropologists have explored wine and cultural identity in France, wine and the politics of place and labor, and wine as a perfect synthesis of nature, culture, and technology.

Let’s decant the story they’ve uncovered, in five major developments.

1. Drunken Monkeys: The Roots of Wine Drinking. The dawn of wine, like the origin of art, is continually being pushed back in time by new research. According to the drunken monkey hypothesis, conceived by integrative biologist Robert Dudley in the early 2000s, early hominids and other primate species have had a taste for boozy fruit for millions of years. Dudley has suggested three reasons for this predilection:
  • Fermenting fruit was easier to smell and locate—and hence, consume.
  • It offered healthy probiotics and antimicrobial properties, plus a caloric boost: Ethanol (the alcohol produced when yeast ferments sugars) has nearly twice the calories of carbohydrates.
  • The mild buzz of ethanol eased the tension of life in the jungle. Alcohol levels were low, and consumption was moderate, since properly drunken monkeys would have made easy prey.
At least 10 million years ago, a critical gene mutation in primates created the ADH4 enzyme, which made it possible to digest ethanol up to 40 times faster than previous species did. The enzyme allowed our ape ancestors to enjoy even more overripe, fermenting fruit without suffering ill effects.

Since grapes didn’t grow in sub-Saharan Africa, our Homo ancestors probably made the world’s first wines by fermenting high-sugar fruits like figs or marula, a tart, juicy tree fruit. Wine can in fact be made from a variety of fruits, though today almost all wine is crafted from grapes... (MORE - missing details)

THE OTHER TURNING POINTS COVERED: Grape Expectations: Stone Age Wine ..... Drinking History: From Wild to Domesticated Vines ..... Divine Wine: From Mythic Tales to Modern Tastes  ..... New Worlds and the Globalization of Wine
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