People have been making wine for about 8,000 years our of grapes and other fruit juices. But how did they do it in ancient times?
Did they have the yeast? Did they have sterilized containers to make it in? Did they even know what sterilized meant?
Ancient hieroglyphs in the early Mesopotamian culture indicate that they did have knowledge of how to make wine. But those glyphs go on to tell us a little more…
First of all, grapes that grow in the wild or in vineyards have their own yeast on the outside of the skins. Now isn’t that handy? If you harvest grapes and crush them to get the juice out BUT leave the grape skins in, the mixture will ferment all by itself because of the naturally occurring yeast. In most cases, the natural yeast is NOT the yeast that we would use today but it apparently served it’s purpose back in ancient times.
But, if you wanted to, you could make wine the same way our ancestors did and just let nature do the fermentation for you with the naturally occurring yeast. It won’t be as strong in alcohol as it would if you used some currently available commercial winemaking yeast, but it will still do the trick.
But what about the necessity to have everything cleaned and sterilized before starting? Surely there was no way to accomplish this back in ancient times…
Well – yes and no. It is mentioned several times in many ancient texts that silver has an antibacterial effect. To this day we know that silver kills bacteria or severely inhibits bacterial growth. The ancients could start their wine in large silver lined containers and let it ferment in them.
Once the alcohol content was high enough, the wine itself and the alcohol it contains is enough to keep bugs from growing.
Fast forward to today’s times and we use sulfites to both preserve wine and to keep bugs or other bacteria frowing in the juice while it is fermenting. By the way, sulfites are a LOT cheaper than silver lined containers!