New evidence suggests Georgia is world’s oldest wine region

Drinks: Drinks, Wines
Location: Asia, Europe

Georgia has been declared the official birthplace of wine. For now.

Research conducted by an international team of scientists has discovered that viticulture and winemaking in the area could be traced back as far as 6,000 BC – about 1,000 years earlier than the previous ‘oldest’ wine region, in the Zagros mountains in Iran.

The team examined sites at Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, ancient settlements 50km south of the capital Tbilisi. The sites had previously been excavated in the 1960s. But using more accurate modern techniques to analyse the grape residue on the ancient jars, the team discovered that grapes were being grown there – and cultivated in a systematic fashion – in early Neolithic times.

Kvevri: clay pots still used in winemaking today

‘These results [show]just how important wine was in the social setting of the earliest periods of human village life,’ said Stephen Batiuk of the University of Toronto.

The scientists also found fragments of the region’s 300-litre kvevri clay pots – a means of ageing wine that is still used today, and which is increasingly trendy amongst sommeliers.

So is this definitively the oldest place for wine ever? Yes… but only for now.

‘Other sites in the South Caucasus in Armenia and Azerbaijan might eventually produce even earlier evidence for viniculture than Georgia,’ said Dr Patrick McGovern of the Penn Museum; a specialist in the role of alcohol in the history of humankind. ‘The Taurus Mountains of eastern Turkey are also a prime candidate for further exploration – its monumental sites at the headwaters of the Tigris River, date as far back as 9,500 BC.’

Read all about Georgia’s burgeoning wine scene in the Winter issue of Imbibe, out in December

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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