They have been found in Egyptian tombs and even pre-biblical tombs across Central Asia and Eastern Europe. We can now safely assume that the earliest people to appreciate grapes were the hunter-gatherers of the pre-civilization era. They must have found the piquant juice of these pretty little globes tasting good with their savory delights – wild boar and the like. Scientists now believe that they must have originated in the Black Sea region of Eastern Europe and then spread southwards to the Middle Eastern Europe. The earliest estimates of cultivation are around eight thousand years ago, in 600 BC in the Mesopotamian civilization. Four thousand years later it had spread to Phoenicia and Egypt and then the whole world through the sea faring routes.

However, the credit for growing and wine making (collecting and fermenting grape juice), can be credited to the ancient Greeks (all our sinful pleasures came from their civilization it would seem). Like everything else, they even had a God named after the grape and its juice – Dionysus (who later evolved into Bacchus, the God of Wine).

The wines that Greeks used to make must have been largely accidental, since grape juice ferments very fast. So they were thick, syrupy and sweet. These had to be diluted with water and in some cases, flavored with herbs, honey, and sometimes even cheese…and was still considered good enough to drink.

But after 400 AD, with the fall of the Roman civilization, the art of growing grapes and making wine out of them also fell, and the tradition was carried on only by the monks of certain monasteries and religious orders- chief among them, the Benedictine and Cistercian Abbeys of France and Germany. Wine making became an art in their hands. But drinking plain grape juice was still difficult, till almost the nineteenth century when pasteurization was started. It was in 1869 that unfermented grape juice became a beverage in its own right.

Today there are almost 40 to 50 varieties of grapes grown in the world, what with the hybridization and new varieties being developed. Its universal appeal has made this an ongoing process, not stopping with colors, tastes or flavors of the fruit itself or the wine thereof. We can look forward to varieties of grapes developed for every occasion, table grapes and desert grapes to name a few.

As one of nature's richest source of anti oxidants, the grape is priceless in its nutrional value. In fact many dieticians maintain that it helps lower the incidence of two of the deadliest diseases in the urban world- coronary disease and cancer. In its juice form, the grape is known to cleanse the liver and remove excess uric acid from the body.

In certain areas of France, people consume nothing but grape juice during the grape harvest season. These people have been known to have a lower incidence of the diseases mentioned before. However grape juice is not a simplistic liquid, it needs more saliva and digestive juices to make its passage through the human digestion easier, or it can cause cramps.

Besides the obvious good effects, grapes are found to be extremely high in potassium, encouraging an alkaline blood balance and stimulating the heart and kidney processes. They also contain chemicals that help to detoxify and cleanse the system.

One interesting but little known fact is that grape seeds are healthier than the fruit itself. They contain powerful antioxidants, serving to prevent premature ageing, disease and decay, by controlling free radicals. Free radical cells basically help to develop degenerative diseases, strokes. In fact according to some studies, grape seed extracts are known to contain up to 50 times more potent in anti-oxidation than vitamin E and Vitamin C. In addition, they have antiviral, anti-carcinogenic properties, and also serve to ensure free and smooth blood circulation.
In addition to the seed, the skin of the grape also hold some amount of nutrition, a chemical that our body can convert into anti cancer agent, about 50-60 micrograms of reserveratrol per gram of skin. This compound has the ability to selectively target and destroy cancer cells in he human body.

With so much going for the little juice filled berry, it is no wonder that grapes have been a long time favorite of the human race.