Traditional Treasures: Wine and Bees
For the entire length of human history, wine has been produced and consumed, revered as a drink head and shoulders above any other. Cultures have risen and national fortunes have been made on the production of wine. Countries have also fallen because of their fine vineyards. Wine is a part of human history as much as war and wealth are.
Honey goes back even farther. Cave paintings have been found, depicting honey-gathering figures. Honey is a sweet, golden wonder. Ancient cultures valued it for its sweetness and mystical properties. Ancient texts often refer to honey as some wonderful gift from the gods, as in the phrase “a land of milk and honey”. Today, honey is still a favorite treat and ingredient, and has been shown to have beneficial effects on health. You could say that man grew smarter with fire, but grew strong on meat and honey. Honey was the primary reason why man started keeping bees.
Wine making and beekeeping are both traditional activities, having been part of human culture for millennia. Today, both wine making and beekeeping are performed on unheard-of scales, producing some of mankind’s favorite products for more people than ever before. If we are to compare the two, it would be best to discuss them one at a time before contrasting them.
Wine making, or vinification, is the production of wine. While wine is commonly made from grapes, any non-toxic plant material can be used to make wine. In this article, we will limit ourselves to wine as a product made from grapes. Wine making is often associated with certain regions of the world. It has long been a livelihood and tradition in countries like France, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. The people who make wine can be fiercely competitive when it comes to their wines. The endless debates on which wine is the best rage on, even today. In ancient times, wine was a vital trade resource. Today, old wines are valued highly, more than new wines.
Beekeeping is also called apiculture, from the Latin word for bee, “apis”. Beekeeping produces honey as its primary output. Beeswax is also a valuable resource that bees make. Beekeeping is not associated with any particular place, as it is practiced all over the world. Originally, honey and beeswax were taken from wild bees. The earliest evidence of the domestication of bees points to it being begun by the Ancient Egyptians. Beekeeping techniques and hive designs have evolved, and so has the selection of bees. Today, much research is being done into the properties of honey, and how our health benefits from it.
Wine making and beekeeping are both old, and are both valuable. Wine making takes a lot of invested capital, and a lot of time spent waiting for wines to mature. Beekeeping requires less time, but the rewards are not as great. Both winemaking and beekeeping are susceptible to failure; grape crops can fail, and bees can get sick.
An interesting product of wine making and beekeeping is mead. Mead is wine made with water and honey. The wine is made sweeter with the honey, and the characteristics of the honey add even more character to the drink. Mead is independently multicultural, as it has been discovered in places as disparate as China, Africa, and Europe. Mead is no longer popular today, though it was the drink of choice for many in ancient times.
It cannot be denied that wine making and beekeeping are a rich and important part of history. Without either of these, our modern society would not exist. So raise a glass of mead to wine makers and beekeepers, keepers of traditional treasures.. wine tours Willamette Valley