The consumption of grape wine in Persia has a pedigree going back over 2,500 years. According to Firdawsi, the liquid that gave filled the legendary Cup of Jamshid itself was a deep red wine that gave him the ability to foretell the future. Throughout the Early Modern Persianate World, wine has acted as a vital social lubricant and artistic muse, with bottles, beakers and the ever-present Saqi appearing in miniatures, frescoes and books. Meanwhile, it has also made up a significant part of the trading inventories of local merchants, in addition to those of the European trading companies. Wine, along with other Persian products were used as diplomatic gifts by Europeans as far afield as modern Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, showing the long reach of these goods as commercial cargoes, but also their potential cultural capital. In this paper, I will explore some of these facets of the life of Persian wine, while also considering its wider impacts on the social and economic history of the Persianate World and beyond.
Peter Good is a 2023 JSPS Fellow at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. His forthcoming project “Give Wine and be Joyful: Persianate Wine Culture and Global Trade and Cultural Exchange” investigates the global trade of Persian goods as commercial and diplomatic products and gifts during the Early Modern Period. He received his PhD from the University of Essex and the British Library and published his first book, The East India Company in Persia: Trade and Cultural Exchange in the Eighteenth Century with I.B. Tauris (now available in paperback).