It’s always wine o’clock somewhere — and always was.
Researchers have unearthed telltale evidence of the world’s earliest winemaking in clay crockery dating back to 6,000 B.C., the Guardian reports.
The discovery, in the country of Georgia, suggests that the process of fermenting grapes into wine is five centuries older than previously believed from research in the Zagros mountains in Iran. Vessels with chemical wine residue found there in 1968 showed that an oenophile’s favorite sip was being made 7,000 years ago.
New research pushes that back to 8,000 years ago. Or, about how long it feels like it takes to get served a glass of Malbec in a crowded New York City wine bar today.
A new discovery about the history of winemaking offers a reason to toast.
“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 exciting new wine discovery is a collaborative effort by Georgian, European and North American scientists. The area of focus was the South Caucasus, about 31 miles from the capital of Tbilisi, where excavation sites revealed evidence of a late Stone Age culture.
Of special in the research — published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — were fired clay pots and fragments, including one measuring a yard tall and a yard high adorned with shapes which, the Guardian notes, researchers say could be grapes clusters.
Analysis of soil, pottery, ancient grape pollen and even the remains of a fruit fly showed traces of tartaric acid — a substance found in grapes in large quantities — and other acids linked to grapes.
A Neolithic jar, possibly used for winemaking, is on display at the Georgian National Museum.
Scientists acknowledge that the vessels could have simply contained grapes, not wine. But shapes of pots and other findings point to the earliest evidence of winemaking.
“The Georgians are absolutely ecstatic,” said Stephen Batiuk, an archaeologist from the University of Toronto and one of the study’s co-authors. “They have been saying for years that they have a very long history of winemaking and so we’re really cementing that position.”