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Around 8,000 years ago, ancient people in modern-day Georgia—which curiously is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone—started producing wine.
Archaeological excavations in Georgia have yielded evidence of the first winemaking process in the world, between 600 and 1,000 years older than the one previously found by experts.
According to a study published in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), it is the oldest remains found to date of wine obtained from Eurasian grapes, which is currently used in most wines.
The ceramic fragments come from two Neolithic sites that date back to 6,000-5,000 BC, denominated Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, located around 50 kilometers to the south of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.
Scientists at the University of Toronto, Canada, in collaboration with the National Museum of Georgia, collected fragments of eight large ceramic jars and the remains found inside were analyzed by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.
The results of the analysis revealed remains of tartaric acid which is one of the key indicators of grape and wine, as well as other substances related to the ‘Drink of the Gods’.
“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely 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 U of T, and co-author of the study published in PNAS.
“The domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 types of table and wine grapes worldwide,” said Batiuk.
“Modern-day Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time.”
As noted by Batiuk, the ceramic found “is ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented products.”
The creation of the material dates back to the Neolithic period, which also saw the birth of activities such as livestock, the domestication of animals and the development of polished stone tools, recalls the expert.
So far, the oldest evidence of wine production came from the Hajji Firuz Tepe field in the northwest of the Zagros mountains in Iran, dating back to about 5,400 and 5,000 BC.
The new study allows experts to rewrite the history of winemaking, meaning that mankind produced wine around 8,000 years ago.
Featured image: The base of a Neolithic jar being prepared for sampling for residue analysis, image by Judyta Olszewski