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

14 November 2017

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.

Eight-thousand-year-old pottery shards found in Georgia point to evidence of the world's earliest grape wine-making, according to scientists.

Pottery from a site in Georgia has tested positive for traces of wine.

"Wine is central to civilisation as we know it in the West".

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Analysis of pottery fragments revealed traces of substances such as tartaric acid, a chemical fingerprint of grapes.

Researchers also found three organic acids associated with wine - malic, succinic and citric - in the residue from the jars.

The world's oldest non-grape wine is believed to be a fermented drink made of rice, honey and fruit, found in China and dating back to around 7000 B.C.

"The infinite range of flavours and aromas of today's 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again", says archaeologist Stephen Batiuk from the University of Toronto. In one of the most recently published studies, experts noted moderate wine consumption to boost female fertility. Georgia is one of the flawless environments for such undertakings, as it hosts about 500 species and varieties of grapes used only for wine, together with many others cultivated for fruits.

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Batiuk thinks that the drinking and offering of wine played an important role in many aspects of life in the ancient Georgian society from medical practice, to celebrations of births and deaths and everyday meals.

From their combination of archaeological, chemical, botanical, climatic, and radiocarbon data, the researchers concluded that the Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera was very abundant around the village excavation sites. Adding to its importance, this grapevine was the ancestor of the current wine varieties that we enjoy so much.

'We're really just trying to work out where the first domestication occurred, and Georgia is right in the centre of it all, ' said McGovern, who is scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.

Journal reference: Patrick McGovern el al., "Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus", PNAS (2017).

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