"Georgia is home to over 500 varieties of wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time".
Before stumbling upon these ceramic jars, the oldest evidence related to the existence of wine came from today's Iran, in the Zagros Mountains.
Winemaking is more ancient than it was earlier thought.
It's fantastic to think that 8,000 years ago the world's earliest winemakers were producing something very similar to the wine we consume today - and what's even more startling is it hints we probably had lots more in common with these ancient ancestors too.
The excavated sites were originally two villages that date back to the Neolithic period. The villagers harvested wheat, raised sheep, goat and cattle, and used simple tools made of bone and volcanic glass called obsidian.
Researchers were particularly intrigued by fired clay pots found in the region - likely to be some of the earliest pottery made in the Near East.
(A) Representative early Neolithic jar from Khramis Didi-Gora. What's more, it was decorated with blobs that the researchers say could be meant to depict clusters of grapes.
The villages are from a Neolithic time frame.
But now new research from the Republic of Georgia - a perennial and fierce challenger for the title - suggests people in that Southern Caucasus country were sipping the nectar of the gods even earlier.
In total, 30 pottery fragments and 26 soil samples were examined, with the inside surface of the pottery ground down a little to produce a powder for analysis.
It's thought the prehistoric imbibers of Georgia may have stored their wine in large jars underground, leaving them to ferment.
The team then used a variety of analytical techniques to explore whether the soil or the inner surface of the vessels held signs of molecules of the correct mass, or with the right chemical signatures, to be evidence of wine. In addition, the organic acids malic, succinic, and citric were found. Tests on the associated soils largely showed far lower levels of the acid. Also not found: pips or any other solids from the grapes themselves, which you could reasonably expect to find from both from the winemaking process and as contents settled in storage. The researchers said that the decorations possibly represent grapes. However, these traces dated back from 5400 to 5000 BC, also in the Neolithic period. "The grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems and seeds are all fermented together", he told the BBC.
"The Eurasian grapevine that now accounts for 99.9 per cent of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia", Batiuk said, adding that the domestication of the grape "eventually led to the emergence of a wine culture in the region".
The excavations at the Gadachrili Gora site in Georgia.
"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine, "Phys.org quoted Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto, and co-author of the study".
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