Did you know wine is good for you? Research has shown that drinking just one to two glasses of wine per day, not more, can decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, your chances of having a heart attack if you have high blood pressure, and your overall mortality rate – all by over 30 percent.
But wait, that’s not all.
Drinking a glass or two of wine can cut your chances of having a blood clot related stroke by 50 percent. Another study showed that, if you opt for red wine, you can reduce your chances of developing colon cancer by the same rate.
Beyond the health benefits, there’s a whole host of practical reasons to drink wine, too.
For one, it tastes good. It can also make your favorite foods taste better and—yes, it’s been proven—improve your mood to boot.
Our relationship with wine stretches back thousands of years, and has played an integral role in our human history. But, before we get to the benefits of wine, let’s take a look to see where our relationship with wine all started.
Much like theories that point to the early beginnings of cheese as accidental, which you can see in our cheese guide, no doubt wine was an accident as well, discovered after the ingestion of fermented grapes. Evidence for wine making and grape cultivation have been found in areas in present day Armenia, Turkey, China, and Iran that date back almost ten thousand years.
In ancient Greece, around 500 BCE, partaking of wine was a major feature in men’s Symposions, or drinking parties. The men, usually numbering at least nine or ten, would lie on benches around the walls of the room, which in the homes of the well-heeled was a space designated for just such activities called the andron, sort of an early forerunner of the man-cave.
There were strict rules regarding the amount of wine served to ensure all who gathered reached an equal and perfect degree of intoxication—but, as might be expected, things did not always go as planned. Activities centered around serious conversations; in fact, some of Plato’s dialogues were first conceived at Symposions.
But there was another less intellectual activity, but certainly as popular, a drinking game called Kottabos. It went like this: when you had drained your shallow drinking cup, called a kylix, down to the dregs and sediment in the bottom, you would spin it and then flick the remains towards a target.
Sometime the target was a small metal disk that would fall and make a clunking sound if you were successful. Other times they aimed for small clay vessels to sink in a pool of water. Just to add to the level of difficulty, as you were hurling your dregs, you had to call out the name of your secret love. Hitting the target would be a good omen for your future love life, and it could win you a prize to boot.
Women were not allowed in these Symposions, except as entertainment, nor were they permitted to drink wine in ancient Rome either. One reason they were denied imbibing was that the Roman (male) ruling classes reportedly believed they were protecting women from slipping into debauchery. But not all women at the time got that message. One in particular, with close ties to Rome, was particularly fond of her wine.
Read the full text in our pocket guide to wine.