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.

Anyone with a case of fine Burgundy in the cellar should pay homage to ancient ancestors in Georgia, suggests new research.

Not only does the latest evidence back-up theories that Georgia was the birthplace of modern wine culture, but it also suggests that wine is at least 500 years older than first thought.

A team led by professor Patrick McGovern – known in some circles as the ‘Indiana Jones of ancient wine’ – collected and analysed organic compounds found on ancient pottery shards in Georgia.

Their results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, ‘provide the earliest biomolecular archaeological evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, at ca. 6,000–5,800 BC’.


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It’s hard to be 100 percent sure that this region was where wine was first produced, but it is believed to be where vitis vinifera was first cultivated by communities.

Vitis vinifera cultivars, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sangiovese, make up 99.9% of the world’s wine production today.

The team said important next steps would be trying to narrow down exactly where in the general region wines were first produced from cultivated vines.

patrick mcgovern, ancient wine

Professor Patrick McGovern inspects wild vines along the river Tigris. Credit: Supplied by Andrew Jefford / Patrick McGovern.

‘We’ve been working on this project for the last three years,’ McGovern recently told Decanter.com columnist Andrew Jefford after giving a talk in Bordeaux.

‘We’ve re-excavated sites at Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, taking much more care with the samples than was formerly possible.’

However, he said that there was still much research to be done elsewhere.

‘There were developments in eastern Turkey; Iran is very poorly explored; the true wild vine still grows in Lebanon but it hasn’t been sampled properly; humans would first have discovered the vine when they came north out of Africa in Palestine and Lebanon.

‘We’re really just trying to work out where the first domestication occurred, and Georgia is right in the centre of it all,’ said McGovern, who is scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.

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