Massaya & Co E-Newsletter    
                                                                                                                                                                                March 2011
 The sailing wine makers

The Origins of Wine and Wine Making

The tradition of Wine-making dates back for millennia. It is clear that wine-making began somewhere between the Black and Caspian Seas.

Recently, a 6,100-year-old wine-making facility was unearthed by archeologists that dates back to 6,100 B.C. It was discovered in the cave complex Areni-1, located near a southern Armenian village. The facility was incredibly well developed, suggesting that wine-making dated back significantly further than 6000 B.C.


A chemical analysis paper, published online in the Journal of Archeological Science, has confirmed the unearthed unit to be complete wine production site: "This is, so far, the oldest relatively complete wine production facility, with its press, fermentation vats, and storage jars in situ," lead author Hans Banard said in a press release. Banard is an archeologist from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), costen institute.

Wine making was therefore rather well developed by the time the Phoenicians adapted it as an instrumental facet of their trade and culture, but through their refined techniques and influential reach, led to the spread of wine making throughout the Mediterranean and even Europe.

Brief Phoenician history:
Origins: 2300 BC- 1200 BC
High points: 1200 BC - 800 BC
Decline: 539 BC- 65 BC


The Phoenician Wine Legacy

The Phoenicians took this ancient practice and refined it. Beside the wine making, they mastered vine selection (vitis Vinifera) and agriculture and improves the transportation of wine.

The Phoenician expanded their presence peacefully, basing interactions with neighboring cultures on trade, exchange and autonomy. Their influence extended to the Western, Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, where they peacefully coexisted  with the Greeks. Trade was the ultimate aim, and furthest reaching arm of the Phoenicians.

The exports of Phoenicia included cedar and pine wood, fine linen from Tyre, Byblos, and Berytos cloths dyed with the famous Tyrian purple (made from the snail Murex), embroideries from Sidon, metalwork and glass, glazed faience, wine, salt, and dried fish.

Wine was a pivotal part of this expansion: it was a central component to the Phoenician settlements and economy. As these trading settlements stretched expanded, the complexity of the wine trade grew as well. The Phoenician trading settlements were founded and populated by motherland inhabitants, many of whom had knowledge of Phoenician viticulture from their families. As they settled, they would plant vineyards of their own in their new homlands. Soon in areas where Phoenicians were firmly established, like Cartage, Malta and Cyprus, vineyards were planted to supply the local wine market and limit the cost of long distance trading. Contrary to pine and cedarwood, the wine trade was not only based on resources from the Phoenician homeland, but on the vine and wine knowledge. This knowledge became as valuable an export as the wine itself.

While, no original copies of Mago's or other Phoenician wine writers' work have survived, there is evidence from later quotatioins of Greek and Roman writers (such as columella) that the Phoenicians were skilled winemakers and viticulturists. The Phoenicians were capable of planning vineyards according to favorable climate and topography. They used the traditional methods to make decisions that helped determine the success of the grapes' worth.

For example they would use the Vitis Vinifera that was unknown for many and gauge which side of a slope was ideal for grape growing. They were able also to produce a wide range of different wine styles, ranging from straw wines (made from dried grapes) to an early example of the modern Greek wine Retsina (they used pine llids to cover the jars). The Phoenicians also spread the use of stackable amphorae (often known as the "cananite jar") for the transport and storage of wine. 


Dr. Robert Ballard, in his discovery of a number of sunken ships in the Mediterranean, reported that one was the largest ancient ship ever discovered measuring 60 feet (18 meters long). Ballard noted that the ships' contents included many ceramic amphorae were originally filled with wine. From the artifacts recovered -- amphorae, crockery for the food preparation, an incense stand for offerings to the weather gods, and a wine decanter-- archeologists were able to identify that the ship's point of origin was Phoenicia.


Massaya & Co, Tanail Property, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Phone number:  +961 8 510 135 
Fax number: +961 8 510 137