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Writer: Yavuz İşçen
August 2004

In foreign movies; I have always admired the scene where a gentleman sitting across a beautiful lady, first tastes the wine and then thinks a little and tells her the label of the wine and the vineyard it comes from. The intellectual and bohemian style of the gentleman, even though it is a little snobbish, has always had a great influence on me. The question is; how many people in our country actually consider the wine a culture rather than just an alcoholic drink? I guess this number is considerably few. How many fathers do you know who would want their sons to become a degustator.? Whereas Anatolia is known to be the center of wine production in the world.

The first wine makers
The time and funders of wine are not known, but it is highly possible that it was made in an ordinary vineyard, under ordinary conditions. Because the grape juice, due to yeast that exists naturally within its skin, gets fermented under appropriate temperatures and turns the sugar into alcohol and forms wine. In the studies performed by archeologists; it has been seen that in year 7000 B.C., in Caucasia the first signs of grape planting were done. It is predicted that production of wine has started at this region and at about these years.
The civilizations that have been influenced by wine are; Egyptians and Babylonians. In ancient Egypt, drawings of wine have been observed on the walls of the temples. It has been determined that Egyptians used to register; the grape vineyards, grape producers, harvesting grapes and wine labels. In ancient Egypt, Osiris was known to be the God of wine. The Babylonians, famous with their law system, are known to have issued the first legislations for the wine shops.  

The holy drink of the Hittites
 In Anatolia, the first signs of wine and a connected culture are seen 6000 years ago. However, the real importance of Anatolia in wining comes from an accepted fact that the wine used to get distributed to the world from here. In the excavations done, some archeological data have been found which support this idea. In the guidance of this data, it has been determined that wine was a known and widespread drink in Anatolia about 4000 years ago. In the excavations and research done at several locations in Anatolia jags and written notes were found, belonging to the time of Hittites.
The golden wine cup and jag found in the grave of a king, at Alacahöyük belong to 5000 years ago. Amongst the ruins of Hittites, the best known about wine is the İvriz stone relief. The stone relief in Ereğli district - Konya city, was made by Warpalawas, the ruler of Tuwana city, for Tarkun, the god of fruitfulness. In the relief dated to be made in 730 years B.C., the god holds a wheat ear on one hand and a bunch of grape on the other. On the statue, the sentence quoted by Warpalawas is found in Luwi hieroglyph writing. It says “When I was little, I planted here vine leafs. God has protected them and now they give us grapes.” In Hittites, wine is a holy drink presented to gods. It is has been discovered that in Anatolia, apart from the Hittites; Frigia, Lidia, Lycia, Bitinia and Cappadocia civilizations had a certain wine culture.

A drink which has a god
In ancient Greek mythology, Dionysos is known to be the god that presented wine to mankind. Thanks to Dionysos, man kind has been producing and consuming wine ever since. Dionysos being the god of wine is firstly the god of nature. But the importance of Dionysos culture is to regulate the relationship between nature and mankind, to give mankind the mentality to understand the secrets of nature. In the ancient Greek civilization, controlling the secrets of nature meant being holy. Dionysos makes the way for mankind. The instrument he uses to make way is the wine and drunkenness. Hence mankind gains the power of making a change, which is the root of formation. Wine, music, dance and fun is altogether in the festivals prepared for Dionysos. Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı thinks that Dionysos culture has had various influences on the recent Bektaşilik and Zeybeklik. 
The most important civilizations that the wine is thought to have influenced deeply comes the ancient Greek, who are accepted to be the head of the eastern culture and Roman. According to mythology, Dionysos the son of Zeus has taken vine from Anatolia to the Greek peninsula. In the years when the ancient Greek civilization lost it’s powers; Romans a growing power, have adapted Dionysos to their culture as Bacchus. The people who were pressurized by the Roman government have eventually turned Bacchus, the god of wine, in to a holy savior. In those years, in spite of the prohibition by the Roman government Christianity was spreading rapidly in Anatolia and it did not take long for the Christians to possess Bacchus culture and its symbols. Hence, wine had become a part of Christian culture, their mass and holiness.
In the middle age following Roma’s demolition and the time after that, Christian monks has been the main reason for the Europeans to expand and follow the wine culture. Monks have spent centuries on examining and finding the most appropriate land for grapes or vine that is appropriate for the land, injecting the vine, trimming, grape harvest, the effects of rain and sun, fermentation techniques.  These are the reasons why the monks have held the wine trade in their hands through out middle age. Therefore, we could say that the idea of modern production technologies and good quality wine researches come from the monks.

The end of cultural inheritance
In our country, production of the raw material of wine; grapes has a very old past. Turkey with its 600 hectares of vineyards is the fifth biggest producer in the world and the sixth in wet grape production. However, most of the grapes produced in our country are consumed as wet grapes. Production of dried grapes and molasses are much spread. Only 2% of produced grapes are used in the production of wine and the annual wine production is 50-60 million liters. These amounts are equivalent to two per thousand of the world production.
Turkey is a country, which has considered Islam religion. Wine and alcoholic drinks are considered a sin. Hence, the wine culture that was in Anatolia before Islam could not be carried on. After the Republic, the production of alcoholic drinks has been diverted to rakı and this is another reason for lack of interest in wine. During the recent years, the rise in wine interest and the production of good quality wine are pleasing improvements, in the sense of preserving our cultural inheritance that we are so close to loosing.   

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