Eight of the world’s oldest wineries
Archaeologists are continually discovering millennia-old wineries, but few still in business today can boast a history stretching back to the Middle Ages.
The earliest evidence of wine production discovered dates back 6,000 BC in Armenia and 5,000 BC in Iran. While the oldest winery to date was discovered in Armenia, dating back to 4,100 BC. The site contained an ancient wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups, as well as vinifera seeds and vines.
Most recently archaeologists in Israel unearthed a collection of wine jars and grape seeds at a 4,000 year old castle dating back to the Canaanite period.
However these wineries, of course, have long ceased production.
Here, we round up some of the world’s oldest wineries that are still in operation today, with several boasting a Medieval history spanning the Middle Ages.
Click through for a brief insight into some of the world’s oldest wineries….
Boschendal Winery, Franschhoek, South Africa – 1688
With a French viticultural heritage dating back to 1688 with the arrival of the French Huguenots, Boschendal is one of South Africa’s oldest wine estates. Not much is known about the estate’s first owner, however what is known is that the estate was sold to Abraham de Villiers in 1688 – whose family presided over it until 1879. It passed through a number of owners before being purchased by a consortium of investors in 2003 named The Boschendal Treasury Trust. Today the estate is recognised as a national monument and produces a wide range of well-regarded wines.
Rustenberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa – established 1682
Another of South Africa’s oldest wineries, Rustenberg claim a history dating back to 1682 when a man named Roelof Pasman first recognised its wine-growing potential. The first record of wine being sold off the property is a receipt for brandy sold to a midwife in 1692. By 1781 some 3,000 cases of wine were being produced on the farm with production doubling by the end of the century. The estate proudly claims to have been bottling wine for an unbroken period since 1892. Most recently, the estate was bought by Peter and Pamela Barlow in 1941 with their son Simon taking over the running of the farm in 1987. Today, the estate is known for its flagship Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines.
Casa Madero, Parras de la Fuente, Mexico – established 1568
Located in Mexico’s Valley of the Parras in Coahuila, Casa Madero’s history dates back to 1568 when Spanish Conquistadores arrived to to area looking for gold. Instead they found a valley oasis with water springs and wild vines.
However it wasn’t until 1594 that a group of Jesuits arrived having heard of the abundance of springs and wild vines in this area in north eastern Mexico, close to the Texan border. Jerome Ramirez, Francisco de Arista and Juan Agustin Espinosa Valley established the Mission Santa Maria de las Parras and began producing the Valley’s first wines. In 1597, the governor of Nueva Vizcaya, Diego Fernandez de Velasco, officially recognised the area as a wine region giving rise to the Hacienda de San Lorenzo, which today is known as Casa Madero. Casa Madero’s flagship wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.
Codorníu, Spain – established 1551
Codorníu has owned vineyards and a winemaking facility in the Spanish region of Penedès since 1551, proven by documents that refer to Jaume Codorníu’s vineyards and winemaking activities. It wasn’t wasn’t until 1872 that the first bottle of Cava, made using the “traditional method”, was produced by Josep Raventós in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Catalonia. The Codorníu cellars at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia were later built on the orders of Manuel Raventós between 1895 and 1915.
In 1976, the Codorníu cellars at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia were declared “a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest” by King Juan Carlos I, making this the historic centre of Cava. Today Codorniu is one of the top three Cava producers in the world with an annual production of close to five million cases.
Schloss Vollrads, Rheingau, Germany – established 1211
Known for its Riesling wines, Schloss Vollrads in Rheingau has been selling wine for the past 800 years. Its first sale was recorded in 1211 to a monastery in Mainz, making it one of the oldest wineries in Germany, and the world. Today the winery produces a wine range of Riesling wines, including a range of sparkling Riesling Sekt, with its winery and castle open to the public.
Barone Ricasoli, Tuscany, Italy – established 1141
Even older is the winery of Barone Ricasoli at Brolio Castle in Tuscany, which passed into the ownership of the Ricasoli family in 1141 when Florence and Sienta were still city states. Since then it has been producing Chianti Classico, witnessing frequent battles between Florentine and Siena due to its location on the border of both territories. It lays claim to being the oldest winery in Italy and is today also the largest in the Chianti Classico area with 230 hectares of vineyards.
Its flagship wine, Castello di Brollo, is made from the estate’s best Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
Schloss Johanisberg, Germany – circa 1100
First founded as a Benedictine monastery in 1100, the monks of Johannisberg Abbey in Rheingau quickly turned their hand to winemaking. Schloss Johanisberg is home to the world’s oldest Riesling vineyards and also claims to have made the first late-harvest wines in 1775, using grapes with noble rot to produce sweet wines, and creating the German category “Spätlese”. In 1942 the palace was hit by bombs and burned to the ground, but was restored to its former glory by Princess Tatiana and her husband, Paul Alfons Fürst von Metternich, by 1965. The grande dame, who was passionate about the promotion of culture in the Rheingau, lived at Schloss Johannisberg until her death in 2006.
Château de Goulaine, The Loire, France – circa 1000
Château de Goulaine is located near Nantes in the Loire Valley and has been owned by the family of the Marquis de Goulaine for more than 1,000 years, except for a period between 1788 to 1858 when it changed hands to a Dutch banker following the French Revolution. Château de Goulaine is also the name of the estate-bottled wine produced at the château, one of the last in the Loire to still make wine. Believed to be the oldest known wine business still in existence, today it produces a Muscadet, Sancerre and Vouvray. The estate also grows some Folle blanche.
Since 1984, hundreds of tropical butterflies have called the castle home. Housed in an aviary, the butterflies are allowed to fly freely among tropical plants – a project launched by Robert de Goulaine, 11th Marquis.