About the Origin of Wine

Who actually made the first wine? And where? Several Middle Eastern and Caucasus countries have been competing for the oldest traces of winemaking, even China is among the top five.

But let’s start from the beginning: Answering the question of the cradle of winemaking depends on how you define wine. A 9,000 year old residue of an alcoholic brew made from wild grapes, rice, hawthorn, and honey has been discovered in Henan Province in China. That is, I think, not really wine as we know it.

Usually Georgia is considered top candidate with evidence of winemaking (the tartaric acids from wine can be still traced after millennia) from around 6,000 BC. But six jars from Hajji Firuz Tepe in Iran’s West Azerbaijan region, dating back to 7,000 BC, hold the actual record. Each of the jars could hold 9 litres, and the residue found inside indicate a kind of wine similar to Greek retsina. The jars were embedded into the house floor, apparently to keep a constant temperature. Which means that wine was already being produced at least 9,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, relatively (!) shortly after the domestication of grain.

The art of winemaking later came to Southern Italy with the Greek colonisation starting in the 8th century BC.

A trace of cultural memory about the birthplace of winemaking can be even found in the Bible: What does Noah do when his ark finally lands on Mount Ararat? He plants a vineyard and starts making wine. And where is Mount Ararat located? In the border region where Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran meet.

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