History of Wine – Part 1

Part 1, 2, 3, 4.


Although some evidence indicate that grapes were well-known to people who inhabited the territory of present-day Serbia in the neolithic period, fossil remains excavated at the archaeological site Vinča, in the vicinity of Belgrade, most probably represent wild-grown grapes which have most probably been used as food. Unfortunately, science still cannot provide answer with certainty as to whether those amphorae found in Vinča had been used to store wine or a drink similar to present-day beer which was made from fermented barley and wheat. Taking into account that neolithic culture developed and spread from the east, i.e. from the Anatolian plateau in Turkey across the Balkans towards Central Europe, it is highly probable that neolithic people in Vinča got an opportunity to taste wine which was arriving with trade caravans from the east.


The foundations of viniculture in Europe, including Serbia, were laid by the Romans, who contributed most to classification of grapes, observation and recording of its best characteristics, identification of pests and disease, and identification of soil features. There are numerous records which depict Romans as skillful vintners and wine-makers. Hence, it is also considered that vinegrowing flourished in our regions in the period of the Roman Empire. Back in 92 AD, emperor Domitian prohibited wine production in Roman provinces outside the Apennine Peninsula because the Roman Empire was facing large surpluses of wine on the market. Therefore, the Roman ruling classes in Sirmium mostly drank wine imported from Italy.

Sirmium (present-day city of Sremska Mitrovica) was proclaimed one of four capitals of the Roman Empire in 294 AD during the period of the Tetrarchy. Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (276-282 AD) often employed his soldiers in interim periods between wars to perform tasks which were benefitial to local population: swamp drainage, digging canals, construction of roads and bridges, planting vineyards. Historic records show that Probus planted grape vines in Roman provinces of Pannonia, Gallia Narbonensis and Moesia around 280 AD. This was in accordance with the decision issued by Emperor Probus to call off a ban imposed by Emperor Domitian on growing grape vine outside the Apennines.

Although we are grateful to Probus nowadays because he disseminated love for wine and grapes in our regions, his soldiers most probably didn’t show such appreciation because they had to roll up their sleeves upon return from war and labour all day long under the sun on the slopes of Mt Fruška Gora. As witness to this unpopularity, historic records tell us that Emperor Probus was murdered by his soldiers.

History of Wine

Text Tomislav Ivanović
Image Arbenllapashtica – CC BY-SA 4.0

Part 1, 2, 3, 4.