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Wine has been a part of European life for a long time.

Its roots, according to a Professional Friends of Wine Web site, can be traced to between 4000 B.C. and 6000 B.C., when wine was “discovered” and first developed in the Middle East. By 1000 B.C., the Romans were cultivating grapes, classifying varieties, charting their characteristics and identifying diseases.

As the Roman Empire expanded across Western Europe, its wine did, too. Not certain whether the local water was safe to drink, the Romans made and drank wine. Wine became an important trading commodity, and helped fuel the Continent’s economic growth. And when harvests were done or there was a special reason to celebrate, you can bet wine was present.

Much of that has not changed. While the water is safe to drink, many still prefer wine with their meals. Wine continues to play a major role in many national economies. And when it comes time to celebrate or relax, it is hard to beat a local wine festival.

Inside this week’s annual wine issue, we introduce readers to a former U.S. government worker who now runs a little vineyard near Rota, Spain. They can learn about the unusual “yellow wines” of the Jura region of France and about Schilcher rosé, produced only in one section of Austria.

But the heart of the section is the list of wine festivals in a half- dozen countries. Attending one is a great opportunity to sample European culture, learn more about its wines, relax with friends and possibly make some new ones.

The list is compiled from a variety of sources and is as up-to-date as possible. However, please notify us of any errors or additions by e-mailing them to travel@estripes.osd.mil.

We’d also like to know about our readers’ favorite festivals, so please e-mail with your recommendations — whether it’s one you’ve stumbled upon in the past, one you go to each year or one you’ve just discovered. We’ll include your accounts, along with the updated wine festival list, in a later issue.

In the meantime, cheers!


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