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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:57 am 
Sanci
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As far as I can tell, wine from grapes is a popular class of alcoholic beverage because winemaking started in Italy, Romans conquered Europe, and then Europe conquered the world (culturally, at least). Is there some other aspect of grapes specifically that makes them particularly great for fermenting, or am I right in assuming it's just sort of a historical accident that it's more prevalent than, say, fermented rice drinks?

What fermented drinks do people in your conworlds make?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:15 pm 
Smeric
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The oldest known evidence of wine: Georgia (c. 8000 BC), China (c. 7000 BC), Iran (c. 5000 BC), Greece (c. 4500 BC) and Armenia (c. 4100 BC)
Wine was drunk in the Middle East millennia before the Roman Republic dominated the rest of Italy. One thing that makes fruit/berry wines great for fermenting is their higher sugar content. That said, I don't why wine is the most common, although I suspect that it is neither solely due to historical accident or due to natural causes.

Föhiša, made from a fictional type of grain called sweetgrass, is the national drink of Faqeg. It is a lot like whisky, but it is usually watered down to something like 20%. Despite the fact that I like red wine, there are no grapes in kårroť.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:53 pm 
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Humans like alcohol. Anything that will ferment will make alcohol. Sometimes the by-products or residues are not tasty, but the alcohol content usually makes up for that. It seems likely that beer (fermented grain... there's your rice connection) was among the first alcoholic beverages. Some fruits, including grapes, ferment on the vine/plant. Eating a bunch of fermented grapes probably would probably give you a buzz, if not an upset stomach and diarrhea. Fermented honey is also a source. In addition to their sugar content, grapes also have a high water content, making the fermenting process easier.

Grapes, though known for the finicky environmental requirements of some hybrids, can be grown in many different climates, from the arid to the northern forests. Domesticated early on, they have had a good deal of time to become widespread. If one sets out to grow a crop for the purpose of making alcohol, grapes may well be the first choice.

So it does not seem unreasonable that grape wine is very popular, but one should also take into account the popularity of alcohol regardless of origin. I imagine there are locales and cultures where grapes have not penetrated, but there may not be many or any cultures that do not have some form of alcoholic beverage.

Which came first: discovery of fire or discovery of alcohol? I'd bet alcohol.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:19 pm 
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The discovery of fire definitely predates humanity, but there is no archaeological evidence for the production of alcoholic beverages before the domestication of plants.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:08 pm 
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Grape wine tastes nice. And is easy to make - as pointed out, they don't require extra sugar (whereas I just looked up a recipe for bramble wine and it requires as much added sugar as there is fruit!), or other additives (like enzymes to break down certain chemicals in some fruit).

But of course there are other wines too. England has a tradition of elderflower wine. Apparently the Japanese had a tradition of plum wine, and the Koreans of raspberry wine.

However, I suspect there's one massive advantage that grape wine has: which is, have you ever grown vines? My parents have some vines up against one wall. In winter, they're a few dried, dead sticks. But come summer, they've grown metres and metres of leaves, and come late summer they're bursting with dozens of massive bunches of grapes. And they're pretty hardy, and grow everywhere if you let them - maybe not for making the world's best wines, but enough to supply the locals. They just seem like a plant that you can really rely on on an industrial scale. They're not alone in that regard - brambles, for instance, also grow rapidly and hardily and produce large amounts of fruit (not AS large, but perhaps careful selection could have dealt with that problem). But it may well be that in temperate areas, the combination of sufficiently large crops, sufficient ease of growing (in terms both of hardiness and of ease of domestication), AND ideal chemical composition may well make grapes the obvious fruit for large-scale distillation.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:15 am 
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Grapes also do well in cold climates, one of the few fruits to do so, which means that there exist wineries even in Sweden, and in the northeastern United States in climates with colder winters even than that. I grew up near one. However, they said that they mixed their wine with wine made from California-grown grapes because apparently the cold-adapted grapes are a little too bitter for most people.

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Which came first: discovery of fire or discovery of alcohol? I'd bet alcohol.
Even horses have been found to be attracted to fermented apples that have fallen off of a tree, but I dont know how recently it is that people made the connection between the object and the pleasure it brings.

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and the Koreans of raspberry wine.
My personal favorite. Even better when it's mixed with raspberry icecream.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:56 pm 
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At least with the drinks I'm familiar with, fruit-based alcoholic beverages tend to be sweeter and have higher alcoholic content than grain-based ones, which works in their favour. Although that by itself doesn't explain why grapes are the fruit of choice much more frequently than most of the other possibilities. And I'm not even sure, if one takes a worldwide perspective, that wine really is more popular than the various sorts of beer.

It puzzles me that mead is not more widely drunk in the twenty-first century. It tastes good, it seems to have been popular in Europe historically, it's not particularly expensive. Maybe it's a fashion thing, or maybe there are other reasons.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:03 pm 
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I personally hate alcohol of any kind, but I suspect the modern fashionability of wine over other alcohols like mead comes from the complexity of its flavors. As a drinker of black coffee, that's something I can appreciate.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:53 pm 
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I wouldn't be surprised if there were a status thing going on, too. My general cultural perception right now is that beer is the drink for the "common man", but wine is what you have with a fancy meal.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that cultural perception isn't the same around the world even right now, much less deep into history.

:shrug:


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:31 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
recipe for bramble wine


Sal, is the "bramble" the same thing that we USAns call "blackberry"?

mèþru wrote:
The discovery of fire definitely predates humanity, but there is no archaeological evidence for the production of alcoholic beverages before the domestication of plants.


Who before "humanity" discovered fire? Setting a fire takes some work and experience; fermenting a basket of berries takes only neglect. I would not expect to find wine-bottles, corks, and casks dating from 500,000 BCE, but that doesn't mean that folks had not noticed the pleasant zing of fermenting fruit.

Hunter-gatherers are extremely knowledgeable about the properties of their various foods in their various conditions. Grape-plucking might well have preceded killing and burning animals.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:57 pm 
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garysk wrote:
Hunter-gatherers are extremely knowledgeable about the properties of their various foods in their various conditions. Grape-plucking might well have preceded killing and burning animals.

Not likely, in my opinion, as grapes are native only to temperate climates and thus would not have been available to early humans in Africa. Apparently, pineapples, coconuts, and bananas were all imported to Africa as well. They do seem to have a long-running tradition of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_wine however, which likely indicates that at least some of those trees are native.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:45 am 
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Homo habilis used fire, but they didn't create fire. Homo erectus knew how to create fires.
Yes, bramble refers to blackberry.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:40 am 
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grapes are extraordinarily sugary, so that's a good bet on why grapewine is so popular: however beer is probably more popular and it hasn't got a lot of free sugar, so its either an accident of history and we'd all be drinking plum wine if China had won the game of history, *or* there's something else that's unique about grapes, like the complexity of flavour. I don't know how one would go about measuring complexity of flavour, however. I intuit, though am not certain, a that broiled rat, a glass of wine and toast have a similar number of different flavours and that it's only the dedication and the prestige of the thing that makes some people devole time and mental energy to examining and experiencing in depth the chemical variety of wines, coffees, and lately beers and not, say, steaks or yoghurt.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:16 am 
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I think the reason for why beer is popular might be because of its low alcohol content (better for everyday usage and large quantities) and because it's easy it is to mass produce since it is made from staple crops.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:54 pm 
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the latter more than the former tbh, its very easy to make other wines or fermented drinks have less alcohol. modern wine is apparently way too alcoholic for roman standards.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:55 pm 
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In Kerala, I wouldn't say either wine or beer is particularly popular. In a Malayalee context, both of those strike me as drinks of the middle and upper classes. Brandy is far more common.

While it is certainly possible to grow grapes in Kerala, what I seem to recall hearing is that it's not very practical because insects get all over them and make them not so good to eat.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 2:00 am 
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There's a huge difference between beer/wine on one hand and distilled concentrates like whiskey and brandy on the other. Distillation is way more technology-driven than fermenting a vat of mash, filtering and serving it. And the distillation process can winnow out impurities like insect parts.

And brandy is a distilled form of wine. So perhaps Kerala grapes are viable in that context if brandy is popular.

[edited once to comment on brandy]

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:57 am 
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Oops, apparently, I mistranslated [t͡ʃaːˈɾaːjəm] in my head, and it's better translated as "arrack," not "brandy." Sorry. But in any case, it seems neither has to be made specifically from grape wine.

The most common kind of alcohol in Kerala is surely palm wine/toddy.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:07 am 
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and in an island in south chile its applejack, but those are giving way to a more and more european wine culture... maybe it is just cultural diffusion after all.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:22 am 
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In Kerala, I would say it is definitely cultural diffusion. The word for '(grape) wine', after all, is from Portuguese, although probably most people who know of its existence would just say "wine." They would also say "beer." These drinks simply did not exist there before Europeans showed up.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 11:38 am 
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Zaarin wrote:
I personally hate alcohol of any kind, but I suspect the modern fashionability of wine over other alcohols like mead comes from the complexity of its flavors. As a drinker of black coffee, that's something I can appreciate.


The taste of mead depends on the type of honey (which depends on the flowers the bees pollinated), and therefore can vary considerably. Also, not all mead is sweet (in fact, it isn't unless you re-add honey). I don't think mead is any less 'interesting' than wine. The production process is almost the same, anyway. The only difference is that wine is infinitely more popular, which has resulted in more varieties being widely available.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:07 pm 
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din wrote:
Zaarin wrote:
I personally hate alcohol of any kind, but I suspect the modern fashionability of wine over other alcohols like mead comes from the complexity of its flavors. As a drinker of black coffee, that's something I can appreciate.


The taste of mead depends on the type of honey (which depends on the flowers the bees pollinated), and therefore can vary considerably. Also, not all mead is sweet (in fact, it isn't unless you re-add honey). I don't think mead is any less 'interesting' than wine. The production process is almost the same, anyway. The only difference is that wine is infinitely more popular, which has resulted in more varieties being widely available.


Do you think this has to do with viniculture1 being more easily controllable? It's easier to choose which species of grape you're going to plant than choose which flowers your bees will forage from.

Or is it just that grapes can be produced in greater quantities than honey? (Corollary, beer is more popular than cider because barley was being produced in higher quantities than apples?)

1. Or is it viticulture? Grape-growing, not wine-making.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:29 pm 
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viticulture is the correct one. People have understood for millennia that different types of bees like different flowers. Also, you can control what flowers grow near.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 4:38 pm 
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Interesting. Do you think it's the case that you simply can't make as much honey as you can barley/grapes, or is that just how we choose to use our land/time?

That is, if there were more kept bees (or better environments for them to produce honey) could it drive the cost of honey (and mead) down to wine (or even beer) prices?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:15 am 
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grapes are definitely cheaper than honey, though perhaps not by unit of sugar which is what makes the booze anyway, so...

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