Georgia has enhanced its claim as the cradle of winemaking after new research showed it contains the oldest known evidence of wine culture, dating back 8,000 years. "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".
"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", said co-author Stephen Batiuk, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto.
The ancient people of Georgia may have stored 300 liters of wine in the massive jars measuring about three feet tall with small clay bumps that are clustered around the rim.
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The ancient winemakers who were once the keepers of the jars likely crushed the grapes, including the stems and the seeds, and fermented the mixture.
The team of researchers hailed from the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel, and Georgia. But now, an global team of researchers say the practice actually began around 6,000 BCE in the South Caucuses, on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Georgia, which has a long heritage of winemaking, is positioned at a crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and the grape identified in jar fragments excavated from two Neolithic-era villages is Vitis vinifera - aka the "Eurasian grapevine", from which almost all kinds of modern wine originate. "Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West".
"As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economics, and society throughout the ancient Near East", he said.
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McGovern, who co-authored the 1996 Nature study that placed the earliest evidence for grape wine in Iran, said the search for the truly oldest artifacts will continue.
The researchers say this chemical evidence is a snapshot of early human civilisation toward the end of the Stone Age, as it encountered new environments and made the best use of whatever resources found there - which in this case included cultivating the beginnings of all modern wine.
The world's oldest non-grape wine is believed to be a fermented drink made of rice, honey and fruit, found in China and dating back to around 7000 B.C.
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