Wine-growing in Egypt is already many thousands of years old, although this area is not counted among the cradles of viticulture like Mesopotamia or Transcaucasia. An early Egyptian wine culture is evidenced by numerous paintings in burial chambers with wine motifs and illustrations of wine production. Such finds date back to the 5th Dynasty, i.e. to 2500 BC. A well-known example is the one shown in the picture from the tomb of Chaemwese in Thebes around 1450 B.C. It depicts various winemaking steps such as grape harvesting and fermentation in containers, as well as the loading of a ship with amphorae:
Other pictures show the stomping of the grapes with feet, with the workers holding on to poles placed just above head height. Most of the finds come from the present-day city of Luxor in Upper Egypt, the ancient capital of the empire, called "hundred-gate Thebes" by the Greeks. A private vineyard is described in inscriptions from the grave of Metjen, a high official in the 4th dynasty (2620 to 2500 BC). He owned a large estate in Sakkara in the Nile delta with vineyards, which are described in the inscription as follows: A very large pond was created, figs and grapes were planted. Trees and grapes were planted in large quantities and a lot of wine was made from them.
In the so far only intact pharaonic tomb of Tut-Ench-Amun (around 1350 BC) 36 amphorae with dried wine remains were found. Of these, 26 were labelled with the vintage, origin (vineyard), owner and top winemaker (so to speak the winemaker). The origin is, for example, a "western river", which most probably refers to the western arm of the Nile Delta, where in Lower Egypt at that time the best wine regions were located at Behbeit el-Hagar, Memphis and Sile. In 2004, US scientists discovered a substance in the remains of the Tut-Ench-Amun jars that is found exclusively in red wines. This is proof that it was possible to produce both white wine and red wine.
In various texts the close connection between wine and the manifold Egyptian world of gods is depicted. According to Egyptian belief, wine was called the "sweat of the sun god Re" (most important ancient Egyptian god), the "tear of Horus" (son of Re) or the "child of heaven". The god of the hereafter and the rebirth of Osiris was considered the "lord of winemaking" or "lord of wine in abundance". The goddess Hathor, responsible for love, peace, beauty, dance, art and music, was sacrificed wine in jugs at the annual "Festival of Drunkenness", because wine was considered a symbol of blood and the power of resurrection after death. That is why she was called the "Mistress of wine jugs" and the "Mistress of drunkenness".
Wine and beer were part of the minimum income of every Egyptian guaranteed by the Pharaoh. Wine was the preferred drink of the upper class, while the poorer population mainly enjoyed beer, which was easier to produce. The staple foods were bread and beer. This was also used to pay the workers in the quarries and in large construction projects such as the pyramids. The Greek scholar and historian Herodotus (482-425 B.C.) also visited Egypt during his travels and also reported on wine and the drinking culture of the time. At the time of the Roman Empire, large quantities of Egyptian wine were exported to Rome.
According to one hypothesis, Greek colonists at the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) are said to have introduced viticulture in the oasis of Al-Fayoum south of Cairo. In 2012, the area under vines covered 71,000 hectares with an upward trend. They are mainly used for growing table grapes, which are cultivated in the fertile Fayoum basin. The most common variety is Muscat d'Alexandrie. The desert-like, dry climate makes artificial irrigation inevitable. The annual wine production was only 45,000 hectolitres, which is mainly produced in state-owned vineyards. This small quantity is due to the Islamic ban on alcohol.