Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade

By Tim Unwin | Go to book overview

11

CONCLUSION

From the first discovery that the fermented juice of grapes produced a beverage which was not only pleasant to taste, but which also had the ability to create profound physiological effects on its drinker, wine has become imbued with a range of different layers of meaning. Not only has it taken on economic significance as a product of the land from which profit can be extracted through the exploitation of labour, but it has also become a powerful symbol of the fundamental cycle of life, death and rebirth. Not only does it represent the essential being of life as a symbol of the essence of deity, but it is also the agency through which the drinker can enter the presence of deity.

The physiological effects of wine on those who consume it have changed little over the millenia, and although recent technological innovations have enabled new varieties of vine and methods of wine-making to be developed, the basic environmental controls on viticulture have also remained broadly the same. However, each generation has used wine and the vine as expressions of its own culture, building up layers of changing meaning upon these basic constants. In conclusion this chapter therefore seeks to elucidate some of the interactions between those elements in the culture of the vine that have remained relatively stable, and those that have experienced change, grouped under four headings: the ideological, concerned with the ways in which people have justified and legitimated their behaviour; the social, through which they have communicated with each other through personal relationships; the economic, concerned with systems of production, surplus expropriation and exchange; and the political, through which power and control have been implemented.

Beginning with ideological factors, it is apparent that the origins of viticulture and wine production were closely associated with the emergence of a particular religious experience, in which symbols in the environment were used as ways of explaining and understanding the complexities of human life. In particular, the vine came to be seen as a potent symbol of death and rebirth, and its product, wine, as a means of

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