Cradle to grape: 8000yo vintage points to Georgia as birthplace of wine

Ceramic pottery fragments from two sites about 30 miles south of the Georgian capital Tbilisi contained residues that yielded chemical signatures of grapes and wine

'World's oldest wine' found in 8000-year-old jars in Georgia

Per a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, archaeologists found 8,000-year-old pottery shards in the nation of Georgia indicating wine was once made there in earthenware jars, the earliest evidence ever of grape-based wine production.

Prior to this, the earliest evidence for grape wine in the Near East (Western Asia and the Middle East) was found in Iran, near the Zagros Mountains, dating to 5400-5000 B.C.

Although this may sound like the chance of a lifetime to sample an 8,000-year-old vintage bottle, the "wine" only exists as dried samples that must be painstakingly collected from the surface of pottery jars that had been buried in the villages as part of the aging and fermentation process.

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", said Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto.

"The wine was probably made similarly to the traditional qvevri method in Georgia today, where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems, and seeds are all fermented together", Batiuk said.

Large jars called qvevri, similar to the ancient ones, are still used for wine-making in Georgia, said David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum who helped lead the research.

The earliest evidence of winemaking has been traced back 8,000 years to Georgia by an global team of scientists. In 2011, Areshian reported the discovery of a 6,000-year-old winery in Armenia.

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Scientists say that wine jars, dating back to 6000BC, have been unearthed in the villages of Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, about 50km South of Tbilisi.

Researchers used a combination of mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques to identify the compounds found in wine in the ancient jar fragments.

Analysis of pottery fragments revealed traces of substances such as tartaric acid, a chemical fingerprint of grapes. In addition, the organic acids malic, succinic, and citric were found.

"The domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide".

"Alcohol had an important role in societies in the past just as today", he said. This finding makes it the oldest know evidence of wine-making in the world, at 6000 BC, in the Neolithic period.

Journal reference: Patrick McGovern el al., "Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus", PNAS (2017).

The ancient people of Georgia may have stored 300 liters of wine in the massive jars measuring about three feet tall with small clay bumps that are clustered around the rim.

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