Georgian Excavation Site Holds the First Evidence of Wine Production

State-of-the-art methods of chemical extraction revealed tartaric acid and the organic acids malic succinic and citric

That's some 600 to 1,000 years older than the previous record, revealed by a wine jar found in nearby Iran.

Anyone with a case of fine Burgundy in the cellar should pay homage to ancient ancestors in Georgia, suggests new research.

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.

The earthenware jars containing residual wine compounds were found in two sites south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, researchers said. Scientists in Georgia have just unearthed the latter in a discovery which details the earliest evidence of grape wine-making amongst human civilisation.

Georgia, using the same Eurasian grape variety, Vitis vinifera, remains a major wine-growing region today.

"The infinite range of flavours 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", says archaeologist Stephen Batiuk from the University of Toronto.

GRAPE represents the Canadian component of a larger global, interdisciplinary project involving researchers from the United States, Denmark, France, Italy and Israel.

The jars were most likely for storing wine in these areas as they depicted images of grape clusters and a man dancing.

In 2011, a wine press and some fermentation jars from around 6,000 years ago were found in a cave in Armenia, proving that wine-making is an ancient process. Researchers took them to the laboratory, and the chemical analysis identified traces of tartaric, succinic, citric, and malic acid.

The domestication of the grape apparently led eventually led to the emergence of a wine culture in the region. 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.

"As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economics, and society throughout the ancient Near East", he said.

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.

The excavations at the Gadachrili Gora site in Georgia. However, these traces dated back from 5400 to 5000 BC, also in the Neolithic period.

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