In Search of the World’s Oldest Wine

Where did wine originate?  Some researchers believe they have found the answer.

Until recently, the earliest evidence of winemaking was a jar from 5,000 BCE Iran.  (There is also evidence of a fermented beverage from 7,000 BCE China, but that was not purely a grape wine.)

Georgia, nestled between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, prides itself on its long winemaking heritage.  Georgians have long insisted that they originated the practice of winemaking.  So an international team of scientists went to examine two newly excavated archeological sites in the region.

They discovered some of the world’s earliest clay pots, dating from 6,000 BCE.  Using an Agilent/HP gas chromatograph and Mass Spectrometer Detector to analyze ancient organic compounds absorbed into the pottery, they found evidence of grape residue.  Based on some cultural detective work, they concluded that these jars were likely used by the Shulaveri-Shomutepe Culture (SSC) for fermenting wine.

“We may now have evidence that at least two SSC sites in Georgia, Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, were making grape wine as much as a half millennium earlier than Hajji Firuz Tepe in Iran,” the study says, referring to the various archaeological sites.

“This ‘working hypothesis,’ while buttressed by new archaeological, chemical archaeobotanical, and climatic/environmental data, is only a beginning,” the researchers add.  “We hope to learn more about the beginnings of viniculture by the careful excavation of more archaeological sites.”

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