Before, the oldest chemical evidence of wine in the Near East dated to 5,400-5,000 BC (about 7,000 years ago) and was from the Zagros Mountains of Iran, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed US journal. The world’s very first wine is thought to have been made from rice in China around 9,000 years ago.
“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,” said co-author Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto. Scientists on the team came from the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel and Georgia. They have been working for the past four years to re-analyse archeological sites that were found decades ago. The fragments of ceramic casks, some decorated with grape motifs and able to hold up to 80 gallons (300 liters), were found at two archeological sites called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
Researchers used a combination of the latest mass spectrometry and chromatography techniques to identify the ancient compounds. This chemical analysis “confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine,” said the PNAS report. Researchers also found three associated organic acids -- malic, succinic and citric -- in the residue from the eight jars. This “discovery dates the origin of the practice to the Neolithic period around 6,000 BC, pushing it back 600-1,000 years from the previously accepted date,” according to the study.
The Neolithic period began around 15,200 BC in parts of the Middle East and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 BC. During this era, the latter part of which coincided with the Stone Age, people were beginning to farm, domesticate animals, make polished stone tools, crafts and weaving, researchers said. “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,” said Batiuk.