Wine in Ancient Egypt

In water you see your own face, but in wine the heart of it's garden - ancient Egyptian proverb

Wine making goes back to ancient antiquity well into the predynastic eras, and existed for use of rulers and nobles. Plutarch tells us that “Osiris was the first to drink wine and teach man how to plant the vine.” Although wine, known as yrp, was generally for the elite of Egypt (being expensive), the lower classes got their fair share of it at public feasts such as the Festival of Hathor — one of her functions being goddess of wine and intoxication. It could sometimes be given to workers as wages and was used a rewards to soldiers. It was also used as offerings to the gods and the dead, the resurrected Pharoah was known as “One of the four gods…who live on figs and who drinks wine.”

Experts believe the old kingdom produced red wine, while the middle kingdom produced white. However, recent tests have shown that the wine that was placed in King Tut's tomb was red. First dynasty tombs of Abydos record the existence of vinyards, including the earliest record of wine cellars. The finest vinyards were found in the delta, Faiyum, Memphis and then southern Egypt and the Oaisis. The best site was always on a hill and when there wasn’t a hill the Egyptians went to work raising a plot of land and then planting the vines, which were often grown on special trellises. vinyards were generally enclosed by a wall and many things were grown inside them, such as fruit trees, vegetables and various flowers.

In fact, there were several types of early Egyptian vinyards. The first incorporated grapevines into a formal garden for creating beauty as well as for utility. The second was a work of agriculture and existed in an orchard garden along with fruit trees and vegetables. The third was a formal vinyard as we know them today. The 3rd dynastic administrator of northern Egypt, Methen, had a garden-vine at his estate and a regular vinyard by itself in another area. In addition to nobles owning vinyards, temples might have a vinyard on their temples estates. Ramesses III listed 513 vinyards belonging to the temple of Amon-Ra. And, of course, Pharaoh had his as well. Pi-Ramesses was the site of a famous royal vinyard called the Preserver of Kemet.

Written by Hilarity Hatshepsut with assistance from Sankira Qin. Site design by Sankira Qin.

The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge MerytMaihes Osorkon, Sementawy Horemheb, Menes Mentuhotep, Marduk Hammurabi,
Asenath Amenhotep, Mirjam Nebet, Shesmu Ramesses, and Kaz Matsudaira for their research and graphics assistance.