Earliest known evidence of winemaking found

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"The Eurasian grapevine that now accounts for 99.9 per cent of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia", Batiuk said, adding that the domestication of the grape "eventually led to the emergence of a wine culture in the region". The massive jars date back to the early Neolithic period.

"When we pick up a glass of wine and put it to our lips and taste it we are recapitulating that history that goes back at least 8,000 years", said Patrick McGovern a co-author of the study from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of archaeology and anthropology, who also worked on the earlier Iranian discovery.

The villages range from the Neolithic. "6,000-5,800 BC", McGovern and colleagues wrote in their study.

The researchers say this chemical evidence is a snapshot of early human civilisation toward the end of the Stone Age, as it encountered new environments and made the best use of whatever resources found there - which in this case included cultivating the beginnings of all modern wine.

According to Stephen Batiuk, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto who helped publish the findings via the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), this latest artefact find is a serious window into the earl days of wine making. Tests on the associated soils largely showed far lower levels of the acid.

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Their chemical analysis "confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine", they said in their report. "Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time". Moreover, there are none of the telltale signs that the pots were used for syrup-making, while grape juice would have fermented within a matter of days.

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. Before the discovery of the fragments from eight jars (the oldest from circa 5980BC) in the Neolithic villages of Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, the most ancient proof of grape winemaking came from Iraq, dating between 5000BC and 5400BC.

With their narrow base, the large clay pots used do not stand up easily, suggesting they might have been half buried in the ground during the winemaking process, as was the case for the Iranian vessels and which is a traditional practice still used by some in Georgia.

In the world of top drops there's aged wine and then there's 8,000 year-old wine.

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.

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