Based on archaeological findings in modern-day Iraq, the Sumerians first came up with the written word around 3200 B.C. By that time, humans had already mastered another crucial skill: wine-making. The earliest evidence of viticulture goes all the way back to Neolithic times 8,000 years ago in Georgia—that’s thousands of years before the invention of beer, or for that matter, the wheel.
Since then, wine has continued to play a key role in civilizations from Renaissance Italy, where courtiers displayed their sophistication by managing not to spill wine from ludicrously impractical goblets, to the Soviet Union, where Stalin attempted to showcase communist superiority by producing his own “champagne” for the proletariat.
Society’s collective fascination with fermented grapes has led to some fascinating finds around the world, from bottles dating back to the Middle Ages to wine-making equipment that’s downright biblical. Historic wine cellars are often quite literal treasure troves, filled with bottles bearing artwork by Salvador Dalí or Andy Warhol, or containing stashes of Château Lafite Rothschild worth a fortune.
While the history of wine is truly ancient, some of the most exciting developments in wine-making are happening right now. Indigenous-owned vineyards are turning out exceptional wines, while maverick wine-makers are making wines with whey or aging them underwater, allowing oenophiles to dive for their drinks. Here are 17 places where connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike can explore the past and present of wine-making.