Wine is an alcoholic drink typically made from fermented grape juice. Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol, carbon dioxide, and heat. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine. These variations result from the complex interactions between the biochemical development of the grape, the reactions involved in fermentation, the grape’s growing environment (terroir), and the production process. Many countries enact legal appellations intended to define styles and qualities of wine. These typically restrict the geographical origin and permitted varieties of grapes, as well as other aspects of wine production. Wines not made from grapes involve fermentation of additional crops including, rice wine and other fruit wines such as plum, cherry, pomegranate, currant and elderberry.
Wine has been produced for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of wine is from ancient China (7000 BC), Georgia (6000 BC), Iran (5000 BC), and Sicily (4000 BC). New World wine has some connection to alcoholic beverages made by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but is mainly connected to later Viking area of Vinland and Spanish traditions in New Spain. Later, as Old World wine further developed viticulture techniques, Europe would encompass three of the largest wine-producing regions. Today, the five countries with the largest wine-producing regions are in Italy, Spain, France, the United States, and China.
Wine has long played an important role in religion. Red wine was associated with blood by the ancient Egyptians and was used by both the Greek cult of Dionysus and the Romans in their Bacchanalia; Judaism also incorporates it in the Kiddush, and Christianity in the Eucharist. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Israeli wine cultures are still connected to these ancient roots. Similarly the largest wine regions in Italy, Spain, and France have heritages in connection to sacramental wine, likewise, viticulture traditions in the Southwestern United States started within New Spain as Catholic friars and monks first produced wines in New Mexico and California.