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Ancient way of making wine

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Alex101

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Hi Guys

I am interested to learn how wine was made during ancient times. How wine was made that apostles and our Lord Jesus Christ drink 2000 years ago?

Would it be possible to repeat this process at home?

I assume that it was kind of cosher wine?
It was made from red grape.
It was sweet and concentrated, so they diluted it before drinking.

How they stabilize it without chemicals ?

I read that if you make wine with 16% alcohol and 16% sugar it will be stable. Is this true? Can this be done without fortification through fermentation only?

Why they boiled their must? To increase sugar level?

I think this is very interesting and exciting project!

Please share what you know.
 

angus padius

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Hi Alex, here in Italy someone is trying, the results are not good, the wine takes the taste of terracotta amphorae, fermentation is done in rock pools, but it is undrinkable.
 

BernardSmith

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Hi Alex101 - and welcome. Kosher wine is not a type of wine, it's just a wine that meets certain conditions that allow it to be drunk by Jews who abide by Rabbinic codes. But that said, my guess is that wine made 2000 years ago would have been made using the yeast on the grapes and the yeast harvested from previous batches. "Sugar" was not known but fruit such as dates might have been used to further sweeten wines. I am not certain that honey would have been used as a sweetener. The honey referred to in the bible (devash in Hebrew) was date syrup. I think honey was not considered "kosher" until about the 12th Century of the common era.
Definitely not an expert on grape wines but it takes grape skins to turn grape wine red. If you don't macerate the grapes with the skins you get a white wine.
Did they boil their wine? I don't know.
Did they dilute their wine. I think they did because there appears to be at least three kinds of wine (perhaps four) in Talmudic literature. There was "old wine" - that is wine that was aged and was used in celebratory ways; there was new wine - wine that was what you might consider "table" wine which I think may have been drunk in sanctified ways (at the sabbath table); there was diluted wine - wine that might have been drunk to quench thirst and there was a kind of vinegar - wine that had oxidized and was drunk by field hands and the like (think of the drink now out of favor known as "shrub")
My guess is that most of the wines would have been "sweet" but only because wild yeast is not as robust as the yeast we have been cultivating and selecting for thousands of years, and the wines then would have been fairly low in alcohol since much of the sugar would not have been fermented.
They had no way (I think) of stabilizing their wines anymore than you have a way of stabilizing your bread or milk so that it does not "spoil" because bacteria and yeast are fermenting the sugars a few days after you bake the bread or milk a cow or goat.

Could you make a wine much like it would have been made 2000 years ago? Much like - but not exactly the same way: They cultivated vineyards but I don't know that we have grapes from the same varieties that they had; Their wineries were probably full of wild yeast but your home might have only a few cells; they wouldn't have used glass carboys and plastic tubes but as Angus Padius suggests they would have used earthern pots and from the archaeological evidence they may also have used hollows in the bedrock as their primary fermenters.
Last thought: archaeological evidence from Egypt points to the kinds of spices and other adjuncts they might have added to their grape wines to make them taste better. Certainly, I imagine , the more wealthy folk were the better quality their grapes would be...
 

balatonwine

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I read that if you make wine with 16% alcohol and 16% sugar it will be stable
Depends on how you define stable. High alcohol wines, with residual sugar, is mostly a recent "American" thing. It is not really descriptive of most historical wine.

Most any wine above 11% alcohol is "mostly" protected against fungal or bacteria. But it will may not age well. Below that, you need more residual sugar to protect the wine. But historically (especially in Biblical times) most wine was not aged, it was drunk soon after production.

Also, 2000 years ago, they mostly used Amphora, to both ferment and store wines, for both red and whites (which then became amber wines), not wood barrels. So if you want to be fully historical, then you probably need to use those. And also research the grapes grown then, and acquire them, either as a kit, or grow them --- assuming you even have the correct local climate to grow them. But be warned, they may be otherwise unheard of varieties (for example, just look at Georgian grapes).
 
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Ajmassa

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I don’t know the timelines of how far back this goes- and if it was in biblical times or not - but there is evidence of protection for the wine.
Apparently they knew enough to know air contact was not good. And made their Amphora/vessels to have a small neck creating minimal surface space. And there is evidence of olive oil, or some type of oil, poured on the surface which stays separated from the wine for further protection. A technique still used by a few stubborn old timers out there.
 

NorCal

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Fun project. I boil my grapes when I’m making jam and it really breaks down the grape quick and allows for nice color extraction. I could see them starting with >20 brix must, but only having yeast that won’t complete the job. Not sure why excess sugar would serve as a preservative, I’d think the opposite.
 

balatonwine

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pgentile

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Amphora available here:

http://jars.terracotta-artenova.com/

I'm pretty sure I have read a few places in California, Hungary and or Italy doing it or still doing it this way with success. Or at least in California in terra cotta amphora. Wine takes on earthier qualities but not undrinkable.

Not they would have known at the time but boiling of course would have sanitized the must.
 

pgentile

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Amphora available here:

http://jars.terracotta-artenova.com/

I'm pretty sure I have read a few places in California, Hungary and or Italy doing it or still doing it this way with success. Or at least in California in terra cotta amphora. Wine takes on earthier qualities but not undrinkable.

Not they would have known at the time but boiling of course would have sanitized the must.
Meant Georgia not Hungary.
 

BernardSmith

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2000 years ago...... probably honey. But.... curious.... why do we assume sugar was added?

For Tokaji it comes from the grapes -- due to noble rot (scroll around the Wikipedia page link I provided).
Just surmising but would the grapes grown in vineyards in the middle east with all the rainfall they typically get and the temperatures during the dry season have yielded a great deal of sugar? So, they may have used more grapes for sugar and they may have depended somewhat on the evaporation of liquid from the heat of the sun to concentrate the sugars as they prepared the juice for the must but how sweet would those grapes have been?
 

stickman

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From what I understand, boiling a portion of the must or juice was common practice to increase sugar content.
 

BernardSmith

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From what I understand, boiling a portion of the must or juice was common practice to increase sugar content.
That's really interesting. Do you have a citation or some kind of source for this idea. I am not asking with any irony because I am skeptical. I am asking because I did not know that they did and am curious to know the source of your thoughts on this. Thanks, Stickman
 

stickman

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My thoughts are based on more recent wine making procedures, boiling a portion of the vintage was written about in the 1700's, much more recent than biblical times, but there is no reason to think that people didn't cook grapes way back then. Throughout history very intelligent people have always existed, I'm always amazed at what was accomplished without modern technology. Emile Peynaud points out on page 192 of his book Knowing and Making Wine, "The natural heat caused by fermentation and the way it looks like as though it is boiling must have quickly given this idea to a keen observer". He noted that France in the 1700's would boil up to a third of the vintage on mild or rainy years.
 

balatonwine

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Just surmising but would the grapes grown in vineyards in the middle east with all the rainfall they typically get and the temperatures during the dry season have yielded a great deal of sugar?
A hot summer Mediterranean climate in the region. Not unlike parts of California. The northern central valley, for example, can have really hot summers, but plenty of grapes are grown there.

And I am sure farmers 2000 years ago knew plenty about farming. Such as where to plant to get sufficient yields and desired qualities of any crop. And the entire eastern Mediterranean has quite a variety of local climate variations. Plenty of places to grow wine well. And trade was common and active in the region. It is possible the wine consumed in Bethlehem need not have been grown around Bethlehem. But I am sure there are historians who can say more about this issue, accurately, than I can. For example, at the time that region of the world was part of the Roman Empire, and there are quite a few sources about wine, sources and trade during the Roman period, such as:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Rome_and_wine

"The Organization of Rome’s Wine Trade" :
https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/91455/conison_1.pdf;sequence=1
 
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CK55

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Depends on how you define stable. High alcohol wines, with residual sugar, is mostly a recent "American" thing. It is not really descriptive of most historical wine.

Most any wine above 11% alcohol is "mostly" protected against fungal or bacteria. But it will may not age well. Below that, you need more residual sugar to protect the wine. But historically (especially in Biblical times) most wine was not aged, it was drunk soon after production.

Also, 2000 years ago, they mostly used Amphora, to both ferment and store wines, for both red and whites (which then became amber wines), not wood barrels. So if you want to be fully historical, then you probably need to use those. And also research the grapes grown then, and acquire them, either as a kit, or grow them --- assuming you even have the correct local climate to grow them. But be warned, they may be otherwise unheard of varieties (for example, just look at Georgian grapes).
Recent not really at least to you europeans it would be but its been done for over 100 years in california which in the US is considered a long time as our country is just a couple hundred years old.

But yeah i consider 12% stable against a lot of fungal and bacterial problems.
 

bstnh1

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The earliest wine in time of the apostles was merely the juice pressed from grapes - no fermentation; no alcohol. Boiling the juices was a fairly common practice to prevent any fermentation.
 

BernardSmith

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My thoughts are based on more recent wine making procedures, boiling a portion of the vintage was written about in the 1700's, much more recent than biblical times, but there is no reason to think that people didn't cook grapes way back then. Throughout history very intelligent people have always existed, I'm always amazed at what was accomplished without modern technology. Emile Peynaud points out on page 192 of his book Knowing and Making Wine, "The natural heat caused by fermentation and the way it looks like as though it is boiling must have quickly given this idea to a keen observer". He noted that France in the 1700's would boil up to a third of the vintage on mild or rainy years.
Boiling wine is discussed (I believe) in Talmudic literature (certainly post Talmudic) but that act reduces many of the elements of the wine as "wine" and removes it from being viewed as suitable (in some ways) for sacramental purposes.In other words, while it is technically still wine it is not considered as wine. So my guess is that boiling the grape juice would not have been standard practice.
 
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