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World's Earliest Wine-Making Dates Back to 8000 Years, Experts Reveal

14 November 2017

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum who helped lead the research, said wines made in Georgia today still use large qvevri jars similar to the ancient ones, which measured 80 centimeters tall and 40 centimeters wide.

That honour belongs to the long-ago people of Jiahu in the Yellow Valley of China, where researchers previously found evidence of an even earlier kind of wine production dating back to around 7000 BCE.

A team of Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum found pottery fragments of ceramic jars at two early Ceramic Neolithic sites (6000-4500 BC) called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, almost 50 kilometres south of the modern capital of Tbilisi.

"The wine was probably made similarly to the traditional qvevri method in Georgia today, where the grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems, and seeds are all fermented together", Batiuk said.

The team of researchers hailed from the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel, and Georgia. In 2011, Areshian reported the discovery of a 6,000-year-old winery in Armenia.

Researchers used a combination of mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques to identify the compounds found in wine in the ancient jar fragments.

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. In addition, the organic acids malic, succinic, and citric were found.

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.

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.

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

They say wine improves with age, and if that's true, the discovery is truly sublime - and pushes back the world's earliest evidence of modern-style viticulture by up to 1,000 years, trumping earlier finds in the Zagros Mountains of Iran dating to around 5400-5000 BCE.

'We've re-excavated sites at Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, taking much more care with the samples than was formerly possible'.

But the new findings push the date of origin back further.

World's Earliest Wine-Making Dates Back to 8000 Years, Experts Reveal