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Recent wine history

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the art of making high quality wines was continued primarily in France, whose wines were of Roman origin. Alongside with spices, wine was the most important and bestselling commodity. It sold particularly well in northern Europe, which has neither geographic nor climatic conditions for its production.

Owing to many wars waged in the Middle Ages, all agriculture suffered, and the vine even more than other crops. With the (re)establishment of peace, cultivation would be restarted. The production of wine was dominated by the monks, especially in and after the 6th century, when vineyards received royal protection and penalties were introduced for those destroying them. The significance of viticulture and winemaking can be recognized in a decree issued by Louis XI, forbidding the use of poor wine producing grapevines. Probably the most famous contribution made by the monks is Dom Perignon, named after the Benedictine monk who invented it. Monks dominated the production of wine for almost a thousand years, justifying their interest in it by the fact that next to bread, wine is the key necessity of the Eucharist, as suggested by the Biblical description of the Last Supper.

However, numerous riots and revolutions brought about a number of changes on the political scene, and some of the consequences can still be felt. Thus, Henry VIII took away the land and wealth bestowed on monasteries by his predecessors, and after the French Revolution the church and nobility lost their property which was divided among common people. Thus, in today’s Burgundy there are still numerous small wineries the foundations of which were set by those very divisions. Napoleon soon did the same in Germany, so step by step wine got secularized. Its primary purpose, the use in the Eucharist, has changed, making it more accessible to the masses.

The New World obtained its knowledge of wine primarily from Spanish conquistadores, who brought it overseas to assure a supply for the celebration of the Catholic mass. No wonder the first traces of European-like viticulture are found among the Spanish missionaries who lived and worked in the area. Later on, immigrants started importing their own wines, French, Italian and German included, although the indigenous peoples also had their authentic grapevines native to the Americas.

Today grapes are cultivated primarily between 30° and 50° north or south of the equator and some of the greatest producers and exporters of wine are France, Italy, Spain, Chile, the USA, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Hungary, Argentina and Croatia.

Mainly due to its geographical position and climate, Croatia has a long and abundant tradition of winemaking. Continental Croatia, i.e. the area between Plešivica and the Danube, is famous for its white wines, while Coastal Croatia makes both white and red wines. The former prefers dry, aromatic wines mixed with mineral water (known as gemišt), while the latter has a preference for bevanda, wine mixed with water. Famous Croatian wines include Graševina, Traminac, Chardonnay, Pošip, Plavac, Malvazija, Ĺ˝lahtina, Prošek, etc. There are 700 wines with protected designation of origin (PDO) certification. In recent years wine drinking has been popularized by the development of rural tourism and wine roads, which offer not only a rich selection of wine, but ample traditional cuisine as well.