Oldest evidence of winemaking found in Georgia
NEWYORK: Raise a glass to Georgia, which could now be the birthplace of wine.
The country, which straddles the fertile valleys of the south Caucasus Mountains between Europe and the Middle East, may have been home to the first humans to conquer the common grape, giving rise to chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and thousands of other reds and whites we enjoy today.
In a study published on Monday, researchers found wine residue on pottery shards from two archaeologi- cal sites in Georgia dating to 6000 BC. The findings are the earliest evidence so far of wine made from the Eurasian grape, which is used in nearly all wine produced worldwide.
“Talk about aging of wine. Here we have an 8,000-yearold vintage that we’ve identified,” said Patrick Mcgovern, a molecular archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and lead author of the study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The findings push back the previous date for the oldest evidence of winemaking by about 600 to 1,000 years, previously identified in Iran.
“Georgia had always suspected it had a Neolithic wine,” said David Lordkipanidze, the general director of the Georgian National Museum and an author on the paper. “But now there is real evidence.”
To uncork the mystery of the oldest wine, Mcgovern and his team searched the remains of two villages from the Neolithic era. Clay vessels found at these Neolithic sites and others in Georgia suggest the people most likely stored their wine in large, round jars as big as 300 liters.
The team retrieved several jar shards from the sites, which they chemically analysed. To their surprise, eight had signs of wine residue long absorbed into the pottery.
Radiocarbon dating of the site dated the jar shards to 6000 to 5800 BC. The team also found traces of ancient grape pollen, starch from grape wine and remains from Neolithic fruit flies. They did not find any DNA or pigments on the residue so they could not say whether it was red or white wine.
Shards of pottery from 8,000yearold jars unearthed near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.