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.
The world's earliest evidence of grape wine-making has been detected in 8,000-year-old pottery jars unearthed in Georgia, making the tradition nearly 1,000 years older than previously thought, researchers said on November 13.
Previously, the earliest evidence of grape wine-making had been found in the Zagros Mountains of Iran and dated to 5,400-5,000 BC.
Pottery from a site in Georgia has tested positive for traces of wine.
"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", said co-author Stephen Batiuk, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto.
Large jars called qvevri, similar to the ancient ones, are still used for wine-making in Georgia, said David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum who helped lead the research. Batiuk said that the ancient wines were probably made in the same manner as that which uses the qvevri today, "where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems and seeds are all fermented together".
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. They have been working for the past four years to re-analyze archeological sites that were found decades ago.
The excavation sites in Georgia are about 50 km south of the capital of Tbilisi and comprise of two ancient villages.
The new analysis showed the shards had absorbed the main chemical fingerprint of wine, tartaric acid, as well as some other substances associated with the beverage. But now, an worldwide 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.
"Alcohol had an important role in societies in the past just as today", he said. Experts from University of Toronto in Canada and Georgian National Museum have found that wine-making as a practice began hundreds of years ago on the border of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
But the new findings push the date of origin back further.