Asia is undoubtedly the country where the vine has grown without the helping hand of man, and very probably the slopes south of the Caucasus, where still nowadays, as in the Kolchian forest, the vine grows in abundance and richness.
Elphinstone - born 1778, died 1859 - on his journey to Cabul, saw in the Caucasian forests the vine growing wild, and describes how fascinating to the eye the entanglement and coverings of whole forests by the vine appeared. Modern travelers report of bunches of grapes of seventeen pounds in Palestine, and of a vine-tree on the southern slope of the Lebanon Mountains, the diameter of which was one foot and a half; it was thirty feet high, and formed, by its twigs and boughs, a canopy of two hundred feet in circumference. In the vicinity of Naples you may see vines, the stems of which are only a little thinner than the trees to which they cling. As to the size of grapes, they are naturally larger under the glowing sun of the south. Already in Italy we see exceedingly large bunches; still larger they are found in Greece and Asia Minor. Near Shi-raz, in Persia, their length amounts to a yard. Baron De Huegel found them of colossal size in Cashmere.
Lady Sale, in her memoirs from Afghanistan, speaks of grapes of which a single berry weighed one hundred and twenty-nine grains.
The mythology of the Greeks mentions the birth of Dionysos, or Bacchus - or what is identical to both, the home of the vine - as taking place upon the mountain Nysa, a peak of the Hindoo Koosh, an Indian chain of the gigantic Himalaya system.
This god was brought up by mountain-nymphs, and educated by the muses, fauns, the old Silen, and the satyrs; in harmony with this education his worshipers represented him as a bewitching youth, with forms resembling woman, and with gladness on his brow, or as adorned with vine-wreaths, resting among beautiful women, who, singing and dancing, give us the prettiest and oldest allegory of "Wine, Wife, and Song."
He is also represented as rambling over wide fields, drawn by panthers.
In a different light appears the vine in the history of the Jews, but also here, in closest connection with their elder father; Noah's wine soon became a favorite beverage among the Hebrews, who were anything but teetotalers.
When the Israelites left Egypt to return to their old country, Canaan, explorers, sent out, brought back a huge bunch of grapes, the best proof for the wine-culture in Palestine at this early time, 1250 B. C.
The travels of Bacchus allegorically allude to the spreading of the wine-culture from east to west.
According to the myth, it took its way over Arabia, Egypt, and Libya to Hellas; later on to Italy, and finally to Spain and Gaul.
The worship of Bacchus was corresponding to the importance of the wine-culture, and found its acme in the Dionysians of the Greeks, and the Bacchanals of the Romans.
Historical traditions call the Phoenicians the first wine-growers; they brought the vine to the islands of Chios, Mitylene, and Tenedos.
Already, in the year 550 B. C, the process of blending selected wines was known to the Carthaginians.
Herodotus and Theophrastus give accounts of the Egyptian wine-culture, which has long since died out.
The ancient Persia produced the precious royal wine of Chalybon, and the valuable brands of Bactriana, Ariana, Hyrkania, and Margiana.
In India the priests, and in Egypt the priests and kings, were forbidden to drink, while the Jewish priests were only prohibited on days of religious services.
Homerus many times mentions the wine as sorrow-breaking and heart-refreshing, and as a beverage for the gods.
In Italy wine was first cultivated in Campania. The most celebrated wines of ancient Italy were: Falernian, Faustinian, Caecubian, Massician, Setinian, and those of Formia, Calene, etc.
The old custom of adding turpentine to the wine, for the purpose of preserving, was followed also in Italy; hence the resemblance of the tip of a Thyrsus-staff to the cone of a pine.
The wine-production of the old Romans was enormous; Caesar presented to the city of Rome at one single time 44,000 barrels; Hortensius had not less than 10,000 barrels of extra Chios wine in his cellars.
Gaul (France) was a wine-growing country long before Germany, as already, 600 B. C, the Phocians in Massilia, the modern Marseilles, introduced the wine here.
Caesar already found in Gaul extensive vineyards; Ausonius praises the wines of Medoc; Plinius those of the Auvergne.
Emperor Domitian ordered half of the Gallic vineyards to be destroyed, and in their stead that grain should be raised; this would have the double effect of reducing the price of the grain, and of securing better prices to the wine-growers in Italy.
Emperor Probus revoked this edict. Aurelian and the Antonines planted vines in the Cote d'Or, the best product of which is still nowadays called u Romanee."
Charlemagne owned vineyards in Burgundy, and brought the vine from there to the Rhine.
During the crusades French pilgrims brought eastern vines to France.
The sparkling champagne was not known yet at the close of the seventeenth century, as its invention was made by Dom Perignon, of Hautvillers, during the time from 1670-1715.
In the sixteenth century the German wine-grower, Peter Simon, took the vine from the Rhine to Malaga, which now supplies us with the most delicious wine.
But it would take us too long, and it would very likely become annoying to our kind readers, to go further into details; only this must not be suppressed, that America's first discoverers, the Northmen, found ripe grapes in 1000 A. D., and named the unknown shore Vinland, a place supposed to be on the coast of Massachusetts. But the proper cultivation of wine in the United States reaches back not farther than to the beginning of this century.