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Aging Wine in Ancient Times

The world's oldest winery discovered in Armenia.
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We all know that aging wine is highly beneficial in the winemaking process. But a new archeological dig lets us know just how long this practice has been around. Scientists have discovered the world’s oldest known winery in Armenia—dating back more than 6,000 years—in a mountain village that is known today for its winemaking skill, according to a report published in the online edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science. The find is extraordinary as it dates back a thousand years older than other comparable discoveries. Archaeologists unearthed a large vat that can hold 14 to 15 gallons of liquid, set in a platform for treading grapes, along with the well-preserved remains of crushed grapes, seeds and vine leaves.

Also found in the cavern of the discovery site was a storage jar and drinking cup. On three pottery shards, the team found a residue of malvidin, the pigment that gives grapes and wine their dark red hue. Even more remarkable, the ancient seeds belonged to a domesticated grape variety that is still in use to make red wine today.

The village of Areni, the location of the discovery, has been a gem for connecting to ancient civilization. In the same cave, a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was found last year. While this new find marks the oldest proof of wineries, the earliest chemical evidence of grape wine dates back further to about 7,400 years ago. Residue was found on pots unearthed at Hajii Firuz Tepe in the Zargos Mountains of Iran; Armenia was considered the gateway to the Middle East.

With worldwide wine production surpassing 6.6 billion gallons every year, it’s somehow comforting to know that the winemaking process has been central to life for thousands of years. The international project, based out of UCLA and funded by National Geographic, involved archaeologists from the U.S., Armenia and Ireland's University College-Cork. —Denise Shoukas

Click here to read Global Eats Armenia to learn more about this country and its food and wines.

Denise Shoukas is a regular foodspring.com contributor and is the author of foodspring’s food forager blog.


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