Persia and its Wines

A 7000 year history

An ancient Persian legend says the history of wine began with a beautiful princess who lost favor with the mythological King Jamshid. Overwhelmed with pain and sorrow the princess tried to poison herself by drinking juice from a jar filled with spoiled grapes. After experiencing the juice’s intoxicating effects she fell asleep. The next morning the princess awoke and discovered she no longer felt depressed but rejuvenated instead. She took her discovery to the King who became so enamored with this new “potion” that he accepted her back and she regained the King’s favor.

Thereafter the King shared this wonderful finding with his entire court and decreed that all grapes grown in Persepolis would be devoted to wine making although wine had been used as medicine since time immemorial, not pure liqueur but natural fermented wine. In fact the wine processing began in the North West India and what is now Southern Iran to be exported by Phoenicians to Europe.

The Farsi word for Wine is Mey which derivates from Avestan - Sanskrit; Madh, Madhuras, or Madira, that has more words like Sura and asav that came from Draksharas or Drkshiras or fermented juice of grapes. The Farsi word Saaghi - Persian wine server (bearer of wine pourer), Saghi comes from the Sanskrit word Sakhi which means a friend. Mardwika, Madira, Madhuri, Hala, were other words for processed wines. In Persian they also use Badeh. Hala and Halahal later became Al Cohal [Al hala] from Old Phoenician.

The name Shiraz came from that ancient Sanskrit word Drakshiras and this wine produced from the same stockes is available today but it's not to be confused with the brand or the modern "Shiraz" grape originating in southeast France that has no connection to Persia.

Much later in our history the city of Shiraz (near Persepolis) became an important wine-producing center in Persia and by the ninth century, the city of Shiraz had a reputation for producing the finest wine in the world, and Persia's wine capital. The export of Shiraz wine by European merchants in the 17th century has been well documented. As described by enthusiastic English and French travellers to the region in the 17th to 19th centuries, the wine grown close to the city was of a more dilute character due to irrigation, while the best Shiraz wines were actually grown in terraced vineyards around the village of Khollar.

Miniature painting in Persia developed into a sophisticated art in which the most important element that all these paintings share is their subjects. The subjects that are mainly chosen from Hafez’s “Ghazaliyat” or Khayyam’s Rubaiyat are the Persian wine, Mey, and Persian wine servers (Saghi), are essential parts to a majority of these paintings. As Zabihollah Mansouri writes in Sarzamin Javida or Immortal Land Persian Sarzamin-e JaVida] Ramian [a small city in Golestan, Greeks called it Laboos] wines were world famous in the Parthian Empire!. Once there was a fight between Ashk II and Selucied king. History says Ramian at that time had great vineries and wines, sent to many cities of India and Greece.

Excavations at the Godin Tepe site in the Zagros mountains (Badler; McGovern and Michel, 1995; McGovern, 2003), have revealed pottery vessels dating from c. 3100–2900 BC containing tartaric acid, almost certainly indicating the former presence of wine. Even earlier evidence was found at the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe, also in the Zagros mountains. Here, McGovern et al. used chemical analyses of the residue of a Neolithic jar dating from as early as 5400–5000 BC to indicate high levels of tartaric acid, again suggesting that the fluid contained therein had been made from blue grapes!

There is a Winery in San Antonio valley Monterey calif. that mimics Shirazi wines : “Deep red with a purple hue, aromas of violets, wild berries and a pinch of pepper. The palate is lush and rich, ripe and fruit forward with red berries, plums, juicy black cherry flavours and a hint of oak that will leave you a mouthwatering finish.”

By Dr Naila Shirazi - - Facebook - more posts


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