Evidence of 'World's Oldest' Grape Wine Dug Up in Georgia

Ceramic pottery fragments from two sites about 30 miles south of the Georgian capital Tbilisi contained residues that yielded chemical signatures of grapes and wine

Love wine? A team of researchers found out just about how old the practice of wine-making is.

Whilst what little remaining liquid has certainly evaporated from the earthenware jars, researchers were still able to identify residual wine compounds that originated from two sites south of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi from around 5,980 BC.

The ancient people of Georgia may have stored 300 liters of wine in the massive jars measuring about three feet tall with small clay bumps that are clustered around the rim. But now, an global team of researchers say the practice actually began around 6,000 BCE in the South Caucuses, on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

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 (PNAS), a peer-reviewed United States journal.

It's wonderful to think that 8,000 years ago the world's earliest winemakers were producing something very similar to the wine we consume today - and what's even more startling is it hints we probably had lots more in common with these ancient ancestors too.

The latest finds were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The sites excavated by the U of T and Georgian National Museum team are remnants of two villages that date back to the Neolithic period, which began around 15,200 BC in parts of the Middle East and ended between 4500 and 2000 BC in other parts of the world. "Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time".

The researchers say this chemical evidence is a snapshot of early human civilisation toward the end of the Stone Age, as it encountered new environments and made the best use of whatever resources found there - which in this case included cultivating the beginnings of all modern wine.

The Neolithic period was the time when humans started domesticating plants and animals, started farming and developed the techniques of pottery making and weaving.

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.

"Our research suggests that one of the primary adaptations of the Neolithic way of life as it spread to Caucasia was viniculture", said Batiuk.

"Eventually, drinking and offering wine became part of every aspect of life including medical practice, special celebrations, birth to death, everyday meals". "The Eurasian gravepine that now accounts for 99.9% of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia". Many designs are available.

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