In the Book of Proverbs there is this advice: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress. Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”
As we all know, wine can induce a feeling of well-being. In times of great distress, nervousness or excitement — all emotions that are offensive to a peacefully calm mind — a glass of Port wine can bring relief. It is a magical potion; a sedative without the potentially harsh side effects of prescription pharmaceuticals.
In ancient Greece, as the people gathered together to sip wine and chat, they often mixed wine with water and flavored it with herbs, spices, honey or almonds. The idea was to drink slowly using small cups, and gradually reach a state of happy harmony. It was not considered good form to swill and gulp.
The spread of wine from the Mediterranean region began thousands of years ago beginning when the culture of the vines spread from Greece to Rome. The Greeks and Romans shipped wine to Gaul — today known as France — where the natives were drinking a brew made from barley.
The Gauls soon realized wine was far superior to their barleybased beverage. They abandoned their barley fields and began cultivating vines, and in a short time were making a lot of good wine and selling it to the Romans. This upset the Romans, who tried to pass laws of restriction, however, the Gauls found ways to get around these restrictions and went on to make increasingly better wine — which they are still doing today.
Wine then spread to the Americas via the Vikings, who despite what history books say “discovered” America nearly 500 years before Columbus. Lief Ericcson and his crew of Vikings landed on the coast of North America, near what is today Newfoundland, around the year 1000. Ericcson found so many vines he named the place Vinland, but the Vikings did not realize these vines could produce good wine. In fact, later, these settlers turned up their noses at the American grapes and imported their own wines.
Because Catholics use wine during their masses, missionaries carried the vines all over the world. The early Spanish and Portuguese settlers brought wine with them to the New World. Cortez and his conquistadores planted vines in Mexico as early as 1524. In 1561, Mendoza was pronounced the wine capital of Argentina, and there were soon were vines growing in Chile and Peru as well.
Wine’s introduction in the United States began in earnest when Padre Serra, during his Catholic missions to California, planted vines in San Diego in 1769 because the Franciscan Friars needed sacramental wines. In Los Angeles, a Frenchman named Jean Louis Vignes planted more than 100 acres of vines. The Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy planted vines and made wine in Sonoma Valley — which he called Buena Vista — during the California Gold Rush of 1849. In 1861 Haraszthy imported 100,000 European vine plants.
From these humble beginnings, wine has become a gigantic industry in the United States and beyond.
Anthony Scarano is not a doctor. He is an 88-year-old Evergreen Park resident, winemaker and certified naturopath. Suggestions in this space are solely the opinions of Mr. Scarano based on years of independent study and personal experience, and may not be beneficial to health. Wine should be consumed in moderation, as overindulgence may be harmful to health.