Ear­li­est ev­i­dence of wine­mak­ing found in Ge­or­gia


MI­AMI — The world’s ear­li­est ev­i­dence of grape wine­mak­ing has been de­tected in 8,000-year-old pottery jars un­earthed in Ge­or­gia, mak­ing the tra­di­tion al­most 1,000 years older than pre­vi­ously thought, re­searchers said on Mon­day.

Be­fore, the old­est chem­i­cal ev­i­dence of wine in the Near East dated to 5,400-5,000 BC (about 7,000 years ago) and was from the Za­gros Moun­tains of Iran, said the re­port in the Pro­ceed­ings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-re­viewed US journal.

The world’s very first wine is thought to have been made from rice in China around 9,000 years ago.

“We be­lieve this is the old­est ex­am­ple of the do­mes­ti­ca­tion of a wild-grow­ing Eurasian grapevine solely for the pro­duc­tion of wine,” said co-au­thor Stephen Batiuk, a se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

Sci­en­tists on the team came from the United States, Canada, Den­mark, France, Italy, Is­rael and Ge­or­gia. They have been work­ing for the past four years to re-an­a­lyze ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites that were found decades ago.

The frag­ments of ce­ramic casks, some dec­o­rated with grape mo­tifs and able to hold up to 300 liters, were found at two ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, about 50 kilo­me­ters south of the Ge­or­gian cap­i­tal Tbil­isi.

Re­searchers used a com­bi­na­tion of the lat­est mass spec­trom­e­try and chro­matog­ra­phy tech­niques to iden­tify the an­cient com­pounds.

pos­si­bly a Ne­olithic qvevri used for wine on dis­play.

This chem­i­cal anal­y­sis “con­firmed tar­taric acid, the finger­print com­pound for grape and wine”, said the PNAS re­port.

Re­searchers also three associated found or­ganic acids — malic, suc­cinic and cit­ric — in the residue from the eight jars.

This “dis­cov­ery dates the ori­gin of the prac­tice to the Ne­olithic pe­riod around 6,000 BC, push­ing it back 600-1,000 years from the pre­vi­ously ac­cepted date,” ac­cord­ing to the study.

‘So­cial lu­bri­cant’

The Ne­olithic pe­riod be­gan around 15,200 BC in parts of the Mid­dle East and ended be­tween 4,500 and 2,000 BC.

Dur­ing this era, the lat­ter part of which co­in­cided with the Stone Age, peo­ple were be­gin­ning to farm, do­mes­ti­cate an­i­mals, make pol­ished stone tools, crafts and weav­ing, re­searchers said.

“Pottery, which was ideal for pro­cess­ing, serv­ing and stor­ing fer­mented bev­er­ages, was in­vented in this pe­riod to­gether with many ad­vances in art, tech­nol­ogy and cui­sine,” Batiuk said.

“As a medicine, so­cial lu­bri­cant, mind-al­ter­ing sub­stance, and highly-val­ued com­mod­ity, wine be­came the fo­cus of re­li­gious cults, phar­ma­copeias, cuisines, eco­nom­ics and so­ci­ety through­out the an­cient Near East,” he said.

Peo­ple in Ge­or­gia cul­ti­vated the Eurasian grapevine, Vi­tis vinifera, which likely grew abun­dantly un­der en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions sim­i­lar to mod­ern-day France and Italy.

“The Eurasian grapevine that now ac­counts for 99.9 per­cent of wine made in the world to­day, has its roots in Cau­ca­sia,” Batiuk said.

A Ne­olithic jar,

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