Humans have been drinking wine for at least 8000 years

'World's oldest wine' found in 8000-year-old jars in Georgia

Humans have been fermenting wine and storing them in jugs as early as 6,000 B.C. Researchers have found chemical evidence showing that wine has 8,000-year-old roots, pushing the age of the popular fermented drink 600 to 1,000 years older than the previous oldest estimates.

It was earlier thought that wine was first manufactured during 5400-5000 BC in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

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.

"Our research suggests that one of the primary adaptations of the Neolithic way of life as it spread to Caucasia was viniculture", said Batiuk. The scientists there found traces of tartaric acid, which is a chemical signature for grapes and wine.

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

He explained, "Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West".

While there are thousands of cultivars of wine around the world, nearly all derive from just one species of grape, with the Eurasian grape the only species ever domesticated.

The excavations in Georgia were largely sponsored by the National Wine Agency of Georgia.

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine, "Phys.org quoted Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, and co-author of the study".

The Neolithic Period (around 15,200 BCE to 2,000 BCE) was characterized by the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the production of polished stone tools. In one of the most recently published studies, experts noted moderate wine consumption to boost female fertility.

Some of these jars were pretty big - a comparable jar uncovered in a nearby site holds 300 litres (79 gallons), which could have held the contents of 400 wine bottles today.

So it seems like we have the Neolithic Georgians to thank for Chardonnay and Merlot.

"The infinite range of flavors 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", said Stephen Batiuk.

But the study's lead author, Patrick McGovern, a scientific director at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia who also co-authored the 1996 Nature study that placed the earliest evidence for grape wine in Iran, said the search for the truly oldest wine artifacts will continue.

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