World's oldest wine comes from Georgia

"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’.

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.

‘We’ve been working on this project for the last three years,’ McGovern recently told 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."

Earliest wine, and yet how many everyday people even knew it exited before that Beatles song in '68: "That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my my my mind [...] Yeah, yeah, yeah [...] I'm back in the USSR." Nah... no doubt kids just looking at the vintage world globe residing in a classroom back then would have noticed and remembered it via the puzzling feature of a "Georgia" on each side of the spherical map.

Two completely different etymological origins: "Land of the wolves" (country) versus a not so transgender rendering of King George II (state). Although it sounds feminine, the latter due to "-ia" suffix meaning "state of" from Greek, along with an ancient tradition of Romans using it for place names.

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