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The World's Oldest Wine Has Just Been Unearthed

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The excavated sites contained the remains of two Neolithic villages at Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora

This evidence is now the earliest example of wine making in the world, pre-dating 7000-year-old specimens in north-western Iran.

Prior to this, the earliest evidence for grape wine in the Near East (Western Asia and the Middle East) was found in Iran, near the Zagros Mountains, dating to 5400-5000 B.C.

The excavation sites in Georgia are about 50 km south of the capital of Tbilisi and comprise of two ancient villages.

While the team note that it is possible that the vessels were used to store something other than wine, such as the grapes themselves, they note that the shape of the vessels is suited to holding a liquid and that grapes or raisins would have degraded without a trace. 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.

Their chemical analysis "confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine", they said in their report.

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

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", said Stephen Batiuk, research associate at University of Toronto.

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"The domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide".

The Neolithic Period (around 15,200 BCE to 2,000 BCE) was characterized by the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the production of polished stone tools.

Researchers also found other evidences that support the presence of wine, and these include the ancient grape pollen that were discovered at the excavated sites but not in the topsoil, grape starch particles, fruit fly remains, and cells that researchers think are from grapevines on the inside of one of the pottery fragments. "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".

So it seems like we have the Neolithic Georgians to thank for Chardonnay and Merlot.

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.

"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.

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