It turns out we’ve always loved fermenting grapes!
The evidence is an archaeological find around 20 miles away from Tbilisi, Georgia (the country!). Amidst low, mud-brick houses, there is a mound called Gadachrili Gora where Stone Age farmers lived around 8,000 years ago. Archaeologists found pottery decorated with grapes and a pollen analysis conducted on the surrounding hillsides found evidence that grape vines were grown there. (It turns out we’ve always liked to draw grapes on things as well!)
In a 2017 paper published in PNAS, called “Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus,” an international team of archaeologists laid out the proof that the people who lived around Gadachrili Gora were likely the world’s earliest vintners. And while we could have guessed the area, it was hard to believe how early in human history people were producing, storing, and enjoying wine on a large scale – since 6000 BCE! We were still prehistoric and used stone and bone tools (hopefully not while drinking).
National Geographic explained the evidence and talked to the archaeologists involved in the dig (which began in the 1960s but was only finished up recently):
“When the samples were analyzed by University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Patrick McGovern, he found tartaric acid, a chemical “fingerprint” that shows wine residues were present in fragments of pottery from both sites.
Combined with the grape decorations on the outside of the jars, ample grape pollen in the site’s fine soil, and radiocarbon dates from 5,800 B.C. to 6,000 B.C., the chemical analysis indicates the people at Gadachrili Gora were the world’s earliest winemakers. (Tipplers at a Chinese site called Jiahu were making fermented beverages from a mixture of grains and wild fruit a thousand years earlier.)
Because they didn’t find many grape seeds or stems preserved in the village’s soil, archaeologists think the wine was made in the nearby hills, close to where the grapes were grown.
“They were pressing it in cooler environments, fermenting it, and then pouring it into smaller jugs and transporting it to the villages when it was ready to drink,” says University of Toronto archaeologist Stephen Batiuk, who co-directed the joint expedition alongside archaeologist Mindia Jalabdze of the Georgian National Museum.” – WTF fun facts