Viticulture is the process of growing or in other words, the cultivation of grapes that are used for making wine. Anything that happens in the vineyard is essentially part of viticulture. The earliest evidence of cultivation of grapevine for making wine dates back 8,000 years. There seems to be substantial evidence suggesting that humans used to cultivate wild grapes to make wine ever since the Neolithic period, which may also suggest that winemaking evolved close to the time of grapevine cultivation. Some of the earliest domestications of the plant Vitis vinifera seems to have occurred in the area of the modern countries Armenia and Georgia. The “Areni-1” cave in Vayots Dzor, Armenia is the oldest known winery ever. The site, dated as far back as circa 4100 BC, contained fermentation vats, jars, cups, and a wine press. Archaeologists also uncovered V. vinifera vines and seeds. The fact that the process of was already that well developed in 4000 BC suggested that the technology went back much earlier. There also seems to be some evidence of grape domestication in the early Bronze Age in the Near East, almost about 3200 BC.
Cuneiform sources which are essentially ancient writing on clay tablets, archaeological excavations, plant remains, and historical geography are the sources of evidence suggesting ancient viticulture. A culture of cultivated grape species and wine consumption has been determined by the remnants of ancient wine jars used at the time. Grapes used to be grown not only for winemaking but also for the production of raisins. The favouring of members of the Vitis vinifera species that were hermaphroditic over the male vines and the female vines seems to be the earliest act of cultivation of the grapevine. The cultivation of the heterosexual variety is dependent on a nearby male for pollination, which made cultivation difficult. The hermaphroditic vines, with the ability to pollinate itself, were able to sire offspring over time that were consistently hermaphroditic.
The Greek historian Thucydides, at the end of the 5th century BC, wrote that the people of the Mediterranean began to grow out of barbarism when they began to cultivate the olive and the vine. Thucydides was most likely referring to the period between 3000 BC and 2000 BC when winemaking came into full force in Greece, the Cyclades Islands of the Aegean Sea and Asia Minor. Grape cultivation developed during this period from a local consumption aspect to a vital component of international trade and economies.
Roman viticulture was brought to Western Europe through Roman expansion and brought it to the areas that became some of the world’s best-known winegrowing regions in the world: the French Bordeaux, the Spanish Rioja, Burgundy and Rhône, and the German Mosel. Roman viticulturists are also credited with the discovery that steep hillsides as one of the best locations to plant vines because cold air runs downhill and collects at the bottom of valleys.