There are many different tales about the beginning of wine with one especially interesting tale involving the legendary Persian king, Jamshed and his harem. According to the legend the king banished one of his harem ladies from his kingdom, causing her to become despondent and wishing to commit suicide.
Going to the king’s warehouse, the girl sought out a jar marked “poison” which contained the remnants of grapes that had spoiled and were deemed undrinkable. Unbeknown to her, the “spoilage” was actually the result of fermentation caused by the breakdown of the grapes by yeast into alcohol (something we know only too well today). After drinking the so-called poison, the harem girl discovered its effects to be pleasant and her spirits were lifted.
The girl took her discovery to the king who became so enamored with this new “wine” beverage that he not only accepted the girl back into his harem but also decreed that all grapes grown in Persepolis would be devoted to winemaking. While most wine historians view this story as pure legend even though it makes for a great tale, there is archaeological evidence that wine was known and extensively traded by the early Persian kings.
For more on wine in Persia and its influence on the world of wine, read From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table.