In November 2017, the National Academy of Sciences released a report, Early Neolithic Wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus. Authored by Patrick McGovern and other prominent scientists, this report documents the research project conducted by an international team of scientists which confirmed the beginnings of viticulture and winemaking can be traced to around 6000 B.C., in Georgia.

Image courtesy of: Early Neolithic Wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus

Image courtesy of: Early Neolithic Wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus

Previous evidence suggested that the earliest signs of winemaking dated to around 5400 – 5000 B.C. in Iran, but this latest project re-examined sites in Georgia at Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, 50km south of Tbilisi, using new techniques, and found wine residues from the interiors of eight large jars from the early Neolithic sites. The project was undertaken by scientists from the US, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel and Georgia and fully funded by the Government of Georgia.

Using the most up-to-date technology, the team was able to establish the fingerprint compound for grape and wine (tartaric acid) and three associated organic acids (malic, succinic and citric), demonstrating that the Eurasian grapevine (Vitis vinifera) was present in what is now Georgia, in early Neolithic times, and growing in ideal conditions. The team also found that the quantity of wine the jars could hold – upwards of 300 liters each – suggests that the grapevine had been domesticated and was being cloned and transported using horticultural techniques.

These results not only set the dates for the earliest production of wine, but perhaps most significantly, just how important wine was in the social setting of the earliest periods of human sedentary village life and that it has remained much so to this day.“

Early Neolithic Wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus is published online at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at the United States of America (PNAS).

The earliest biomolecular archaeological and archaeobotanical evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, ca. 6,000–5,800 BC during the early Neolithic Period, was obtained by applying state-of-the-art archaeological, archaeobotanical, climatic, and chemical methods to newly excavated materials from two sites in Georgia in the South Caucasus. Wine is central to civilization as we know it in the West. As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economies, and society in the ancient Near East. This wine culture subsequently spread around the globe. Viniculture illustrates human ingenuity in developing horticultural and winemaking techniques, such as domestication, propagation, selection of desirable traits, wine presses, suitable containers and closures, and so on.

Courtesy of: Early Neolithic Wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus - PNAS,114 (48)