As scientists announce they have discovered evidence of grape-winemaking dating back 8000 years it seems our love of wine has been around even longer than we had thought.
Though the earliest evidence of alcohol fermentation from rice dates to 7000BC in China, it has always been believed that grape-winemaking started in the Near East. Canaanites had brought it to Egypt by 3000BC and from there it eventually spread through Europe. Previously, scientific evidence had dated the earliest known grape-winemaking to around 5000BC in Iran with archaeologists discovering traces of Tartaric Acid in pots unearthed in Zagros Mountains in 1968.
Recently though, a series of excavations just south of Tbilisi, Georgia have uncovered evidence of the tell-tale traces of winemaking within clay pottery dating back to 6000BC, suggesting that the practice of making grape wine began much earlier than previously believed.
“Alcohol had an important role in societies in the past just as today,” said University of Toronto archaeologist Stephen Batiuk, one of the researchers in the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West,” Batiuk added. “As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies and society in the ancient Near East.”
The Near East is littered with Neolithic sites yet to be excavated. Many of them are from the 5000 years predating this Georgian site, a period after crops had been domesticated and permanent settlements had been established but before pottery had been invented. We can fully expect this date to be pushed further and further backwards as more sites are excavated but the Chicken/Egg question then arises; if they had no pottery to hold the wine how could they have made it and drank it? Could then, the invention of pottery have been the trigger for the creation of wine and could the wine have been, as with so many things in science and nature, purely an accident? Maybe Neolithic man stored the grapes in his newly invented pots and one fine day woke to find they had fermented. Oh joy…
8000 years later here we are. Thank you Neolithic man (or woman or transgender or non-gender-specific Neolithic person).