Wine: Bringing People Together For Millenia


Saturday and blog posts go together like Bota Box Moscato and coconut rum, don’t you think (recipe)? For real though, where have I been?! It’s been a busy few weeks here at Wine Nook. We went to a local festival here in Kingsport, Tennessee, and now we’re gearing up for the Asheville Wine & Food Festival next Saturday! Make sure you come say hi to Team Wine Nook if you happen to be in Western North Carolina next weekend! Now, onto today’s topic. All this talk of festivals has made us wonder, how did our ancestors come up with a celebration totally focused on funtime grape juice?


To start, we’ve already talked a little about wine’s history in a previous post here. This post was all about the history of wine portability, leading up to today and our boxed wine obsession ;). Today’s post, however, is all about the wine festival. Festivals came about because the ancient cultures saw wine as the SUPREME drink, and the Greeks were the ones who really got the party started. They thought the height of society was sitting around, drinking wine, and chatting–not a shabby way to spend your day. Their festival was in honor of Dionysus, god of wine and the grape-harvest, fitting right?


The Dionysia festivals consisted of theatrical performances, dancing, and singing. Held in Athens, this event was one of the largest festivals in Greece. Now here’s the catch, these festivals didn’t last just one weekend in July. No. The Dionysia was a collection of four observances that lasted December through April.1 Sound excessive? Probably. Yet, as we know, that pales in comparison to the Romans.


Obviously Rome had it’s own way(s) of celebrating wine. Quite a few of them, actually. For the sake of our sanity, I’ve made a convenient, bulleted (and highly condensed) list:

  • Vinalia
    • Roman festivals of the wine harvest.
    • The prima (April 23) celebrated the last year’s wine harvest and asked for good weather until the next harvest.
    • The rustica (August 19) celebrated the harvest, growth, and fertility.
  • Liberalia
    • (March 17) celebrated the maturation of young men.
    • Named in honor of Liber Pater, a god of fertility and wine.
  • Bacchanalia
    • A collection of festivals that supposedly celebrated the “ecstatic elements of life.”
    • Controversial rites were said to have occurred at these festivals.
    • This festival was said to have been not at all the peaceful celebrations of wine we have today.


Ah, Rome, only you.


Fast forward to the new world! Pilgrims knew the only thing they needed to bring with them for a proper party was the purple party drink. In fact, wine was present at the first Thanksgiving. We also established in the previous history less-ahem, blog post-priests and missionaries carried wine with them when on their journeys. Over time, these groups would settle down and start planting grapes (and other plants too, helping to start the agriculture industry of the USA, but I digress). Thus began the first wineries of the new world! Now, what does this have to do with festivals?


This idea of large groups collectively drinking wine in one place is not necessarily a measure of an individual’s wealth, but moreso an indicator of the wealth of a nation. Wine wasn’t considered a luxury in ancient Greece and Rome in the way that we consider it today. The poorest of the poor could still afford their daily wine. Priorities, right? A nation that had the ability to throw these huge wine celebrations meant that they also had the population and agriculture (i.e. grapes) to sustain an event like this.

This means that while the pilgrims could enjoy wine on their own, there weren’t enough people or resources (nor was it their priority, I’m sure) to throw a huge wine party every year. As the U.S. grew over the centuries, wineries flourished, and the surplus of grapes and people created a market for things like wine and food festivals. Recent history saw wineries themselves hosting festivals. Now, nearly every region in the United States has their own version of a wine festival!


So, basically the pilgrims have no idea what they’re missing out on in Asheville next week.



1.  https://www.cndp.fr/archive-musagora/dionysos/dionyosen/fetes.htms