This 8000-year-old jar holds traces of what may be Eurasia’s oldest wine

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Michael Price

Long before vineyards from Lebanon to Languedoc were winemaking meccas, Georgia was the place to be. That’s because the modern country has just laid claim to the most ancient evidence for winemaking in Eurasia: wine-soaked pottery sherds that push back the genesis of fermented grape beverages in the region to nearly 8000 years ago. That’s up to 1000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers say in a new study. They stumbled on their finding when excavating the sites of two ancient villages some 50 kilometers south of Tbilisi. There, they unearthed dozens of pottery sherds, which they reassembled into jars, some of which were emblazoned with logos that looked like bunches of grapes (above). When they analyzed the remnants of ancient liquids soaked into the porous clay using mass spectrometry, the researchers found traces of tartaric, malic, succinic, and citric acids, all chemical signatures of wine made from the Eurasian grape (Vitis vinifera). Radiocarbon dating further revealed the pottery sherds were made around 5800–6000 B.C.E., some 500 to 1000 years before the previous record holder at the Hajji Firuz Tepe archaeological site in Iran, they report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This isn’t the oldest evidence of winemaking in the world, however. That vinicultural honor still belongs to the Yellow Valley of China, where researchers uncovered chemical evidence of grape wine—fortified with fruit wine, rice beer, and honey mead—dating back to 7000 B.C.E.

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