Ancient Celts in Burgundy drank Greek wines, suggests study

Early Iron Age Celts living in what is now northern Burgundy probably drank imported Greek wines after adopting a Mediterranean feasting culture, says a new study.

Benedictine and Cistercian monks may take considerable credit for laying the foundations of Burgundy’s famous vineyard ‘climats’, but Celts near to this area were enjoying imported wines more than 1,000 years earlier, suggests a new scientific study published in PLOS One journal.

Researchers tested residues from 99 pottery fragments salvaged from a key Celtic settlement at Vix-Mont Lassois, northwest of Dijon, between the fifth and seventh centuries BC.

Some fragments showed tell-tale signs of having contained wine, with the presence of tartaric acid, in particular, associated with grape wine.

However, there was no evidence that locals were growing or producing their own wines.

‘Grape wine consumed at Vix-Mont Lassois was probably imported from the Mediterranean area since the scant evidence of grape pips does not support the exploitation of the local wild vine,’ said researchers.

It is believed those containing wine likely came from Greece.

Historians believe that Celts enjoyed a party, and archaeologists also knew that settlers in this era used to import pots, such as amphorae, from the Mediterranean. But less is known about what those vessels contained, said the study authors.

Feasts at Vix-Mont Lassois may also have included beer and mead drinking, said the researchers. Beeswax was present in half of the locally-made pottery fragments, suggesting residents either had a penchant for mead or enjoyed adding honey to their drinks.

Beer was brewed in the area, researchers believe.

‘The Celts in the Early Iron Age did not just drink imported Greek wine from their imported Greek pottery. They also used the foreign vessels in their own way for drinking different kinds of local beer,’ said the authors.

Full citation for this study: Rageot M, Mötsch A, Schorer B, Bardel D, Winkler A, Sacchetti F, et al. (2019) New insights into Early Celtic consumption practices: Organic residue analyses of local and imported pottery from Vix-Mont Lassois. PLoS ONE 14(6): e0218001.


See also: New DNA tests show French winemakers have used the Savagnin grape for 900 years