Wine’s influence on human culture cannot be overstated. Sacrament, entheogen, commodity, social lubricant, dinner accompaniment—innumerable instances for drinking this beloved beverage exist. Archaeology has produced many examples of fermentation’s importance throughout history; before refrigeration it was the means for storing food. Just so happens wine is the most pleasing example of this process.
When did wine first hit our taste buds? While there is evidence of an alcoholic “rice and grape” beverage in China in 7000 BC, new research shows archaeological proof that wine has been around since at least 6000 BC in the Republic of Georgia. This pushes back the previous date from a site in Iran roughly a millennia.
Published in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team, lead by Patrick McGovern, Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, chemically studied the residue of eight jars. This period’s reliance on pottery offers a clue that pottery itself might have been created, at least in part, to store this unique new beverage:
Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period, together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine.
The region these jugs were discovered in—Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora—boasts ideal environmental conditions for wine production, with fertile, rolling hills, an annual average rainfall 13.8 to 21.7 inches, and a yearly average temperature of 55.4 degrees.
Whether the grapes were wild or domesticated remains a topic of debate among the extensive team—the paper boasts eighteen authors. Considering that European grapes today account for nearly 100 percent of wine, discovering the origins of this magical grape would be a boon for researchers, if for nothing else than to boast about it over wine. As the study states:
Today, there are some 8,000-10,000 domesticated cultivars of wine, raisin, and table grapes, including a range of colors from black to red to white. They owe their origins to human selection and accidental crosses or introgression between the incoming domesticated vine and native wild vines. These varieties account for 99.9% of the world’s wine production, and include famous western European cultivars such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo, and Chardonnay.
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