Published: Tue, November 14, 2017
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Ancient Jars In Georgia Hold Evidence Of 8000-Year-Old Winemaking

Ancient Jars In Georgia Hold Evidence Of 8000-Year-Old Winemaking

Evidence of the world's oldest known winemaking has been uncovered in the nation of Georgia, with a chemical analysis of Stone Age pottery jars fingerprinting an ancient drop going back some 8,000 years.

Previously, the oldest chemical evidence of wine in the Near East dated to 5,400-5,000 BC and was from the Zagros Mountains of Iran, said a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a US journal.

The study by a multinational team of scientists led by Patrick McGovern, a molecular archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, says the earliest evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East appeared around 6,000-5,800 BC during the early Neolithic Period at a place called Gadachrili Gora, roughly 50km south of the capital, Tbilisi.

Georgia, famous for its endless rounds of heartfelt toasts that can run into the wee hours of the morning, just unseated Iran as the home of the first wine produced from the Eurasian grape, popular with millions of wine-lovers around the globe.

The discovery, made by researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada and the Georgian National Museum, is also a fitting one. Researchers at Washington University, US revealed that women who consumed more than five servings of red wine a month enjoyed higher ovarian reserve - a measure of a woman's reproductive health.

While there are thousands of cultivars of wine around the world, nearly all derive from just one species of grape, with the Eurasian grape the only species ever domesticated.

Previously, the earliest evidence of wine-making was from pottery dating from about 7,000 years ago found in north-western Iran.

"Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West", reads the introduction to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The shards had come from jars that were probably used for fermentation and storage. The excavated sites were originally two villages that date back to the Neolithic period.

With their narrow base, the large clay pots used do not stand up easily, suggesting they might have been half buried in the ground during the winemaking process, as was the case for the Iranian vessels and which is a traditional practice still used by some in Georgia.

That means the latest Georgian discovery still takes out the title of the oldest pure wine.

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", said co-author and senior researcher Stephen Batiuk. "They have been saying for years that they have a very long history of winemaking and so we're really cementing that position".

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