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Last Updated : Nov 14, 2017 05:17 PM IST | Source:

When was wine discovered? Researchers find new details about time and place of origin

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

Winemaking is more ancient than it was earlier thought. A team of researchers digging in Georgia has found that origin of the practice could be around 6000 BC, 600-1,000 years earlier than what was determined earlier.

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, nearly 50 kilometres south of the modern capital of Tbilisi.

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


(A) Representative early Neolithic jar from Khramis Didi-Gora. (B) Jar base SG-16a, interior and cross-section. (C) Jar base SG-782, exterior. Note the textile impression on the base. (D) Jar base GG-IV-50, interior. (Photographs by Mindia Jalabadze and courtesy of the National Museum of Georgia.)

A chemical analysis of the residue of the excavated jars revealed that it contains tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine as well as three associated organic acids - malic, succinic and citric. The study was published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine," 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 domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide. Georgia is home to over 500 varieties of wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time."

Apparently, there was an abundance of Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera around the excavation sites, given the ideal climate for their growth much like wine producing area of France and Italy today.

The Neolithic period was the time when humans started domesticating plants and animals, started farming and developed the techniques of pottery making and weaving. The research suggests that one of the primary adaptations of the Neolithic way of life, as it spread to Caucasia (the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea), was viniculture. The emergence of a wine culture in the region largely stems from this spread.

Eventually, drinking and offering wine became part of every aspect of life including medical practice, special celebrations, birth to death, everyday meals.

"The Eurasian grapevine that now accounts for 99.9 percent of the wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia," Batiuk said.
First Published on Nov 14, 2017 05:17 pm

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