FIVE THINGS ABOUT VERY OLD WINE
1 GEORGIA WINE
Canadian archeologists from are among a team of researchers who say they’ve unearthed the earliest evidence of winemaking in the world, dating the practice back hundreds of years earlier than previously believed. The discovery, reported in a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, was made in the South Caucasus region in Georgia, on the border of eastern Europe and western Asia.
2 6,000 BC
Previously, the earliest known chemical evidence of wine made from grapes was dated to 5,400 to 5,000 BC in Iran, but the archeologists say they can now trace the practice to about 6,000 BC in sites about 50 kilometres south of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
3 POTTERY JARS
The excavations were conducted by a team from the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum as part of a larger research project investigating the emergence of viniculture in the region. Researchers analyzed pottery jars that dated to the early Neolithic period. Ancient Georgians could have stored 300 litres of wine in the jars, which are about three feet tall. Small clay bumps are clustered around the rim. These decorations, the researchers hypothesize, represent grapes.
4 NO MORE BATHS
The new insights came from a break in tradition. It is common practice for archeologists to clean ancient pottery with a gentle bath of a mild acid or base. The corrosives reveal details in the pottery often hidden beneath a crust of accumulated minerals. But these baths also erase any traces of organic compounds. In the latest excavation, the archeologists skipped the chemical scrub. This allowed researchers to extract four organic compounds: citric acid, malic acid, succinic acid and tartaric acid. Taken together, the relatively high concentrations of these acids point to wine.
5 SMALL VILLAGE VINTNERS
“What this shows is that (winemaking) was done in small scale in little villages and in the Neolithic period — and it’s a period when we’re experimenting with agriculture,” said Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto’s Archaeology Centre, who co-authored the study. The absence of charred grape seeds, commonly found at ancient winemaking sites, remain a mystery though, the study says. It also means they are unable to determine the variety of grapes used.