The world's earliest evidence of grape wine-making has been detected in 8,000-year-old pottery jars unearthed in Georgia, making the tradition nearly 1,000 years older than previously thought, researchers said Monday. Researchers took them to the laboratory, and the chemical analysis identified traces of tartaric, succinic, citric, and malic acid.
The world's oldest non-grape wine is believed to be a fermented drink made of rice, honey and fruit, found in China and dating back to around 7000 B.C. Before the discovery of the fragments from eight jars (the oldest from circa 5980BC) in the Neolithic villages of Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, the most ancient proof of grape winemaking came from Iraq, dating between 5000BC and 5400BC.
"The infinite range of flavours and aromas of today's 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again", says archaeologist Stephen Batiuk from the University of Toronto.
According to David Lordkipanidze who is the director of the Georgian National Museum and the man who helped lead the research, wine was made using a similar method to the gvevri process of today.
Georgia, which has a long heritage of winemaking, is positioned at a crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and the grape identified in jar fragments excavated from two Neolithic-era villages is Vitis vinifera - aka the "Eurasian grapevine", from which almost all kinds of modern wine originate.
It was earlier thought that wine was first manufactured during 5400-5000 BC in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.
The latest finds were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine".
The Neolithic period is characterized by a package of activities that include the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the making of polished stone tools.
Apparently, there was an abundance of Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera around the excavation sites, given the ideal climate for their growth much like wine producing area of France and Italy today. The emergence of a wine culture in the region largely stems from this spread. "As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies and society in the ancient Near East". Many designs are available.