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Italian wine is up to 3,000 years older than we thought – study

Analysis of 6,000-year-old storage jars in caves in Sicily has shown Italy's wine history is much more extensive than previously thought.

Until last week, it was assumed that Italy’s love affair with wine only began 1,100 and 1,300 BC.

But researchers inspecting large Copper Age pots in Sicilian caves have found chemical traces of wine dating back to the fourth millenium BC.

It is the ‘earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire pre-history of the Italian peninsula,’ said researchers, led by a team from the University of South Florida.

oldest italian wine

Researchers found the storage jars in a Sicilian cave. Image credit: University of South Florida.

‘Unlike earlier discoveries that were limited to vines and so showed only that grapes were being grown, our work has resulted in the identification of a wine residue,’ said Davide Tanasi, the archaeologist who led the research.

His team analysed large storage jars in a limestone cave on Monte Kronio, near the fishing harbour of Sciacca on Sicily’s south-west coast, according to researchers, who reported their findings in the November 2017 issue of Microchemical Journal.

The still-intact pots contained residues of tartaric acid and its sodium salt, which occur naturally in grapes and in the winemaking process.

Researchers now want to decipher whether the wine was red or white.

Previous research on ancient wine has shown how giant pots were used for transport around the Mediterranean.

It was also common for wines to contain herbs and spices, which may have been to disguise off-flavours.

Updated 01/09/2017: Italy was previously first associated with wine from 1,100 to 1,300 BC. 

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