That Stone Age Liquid Called Wine
Unknown to you, you’re consuming and enjoying one of the oldest things in history.
The oldest evidence of any fermented beverage is some 9,000 years old. It was found in Henan Province, China.
Just three years ago, a joint Georgian-French-American team discovered evidence of wine in clay pots in Georgia dating back some 8,000 years – the oldest evidence of wine ever found.
The previous record dated back some 7,000 years and was found in pots from a site in northern Iran.
The evidence of ancient wine production dates from between 8000 BC and 4100 BC and includes an ancient winery in an Armenian cave.
The people who made the first wines came from the Shulaveri-Shomu culture.
They were Stone Age people who used obsidian for tools, raised cattle and pigs, and most importantly, grew grapes.
The Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed in present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as parts of northern Iran. Hence, it no surprise that evidence of the oldest wines was found in Georgia and Armenia.
The culture is dated to the mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is believed to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.
Oldest bottle of wine
The Speyer wine bottle, which is also known as Römerwein, is a sealed vessel presumed to contain liquid wine. It was so named because it was unearthed from a Roman tomb found near Speyer, Germany. It is considered the world’s oldest known bottle of wine. Originally found in 1867, the bottle has been dated between 325 and 350 AD.
However, in 2003, the BBC reported that archaeologists in Xi’an said they had found as much as five litres of rice wine in a nobleman’s grave from the time of the early Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).
In 2012, again in Shaanxi, a team found jars dating to the Western Zhou (1100 BC-771 BC) period, one of which appeared to still contain liquid. This is thought to be the oldest liquid substance ever discovered.
What is wine
Wine is the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes used as a beverage.
The fermentation process for wine is longer than for beer. It also involves a long aging process of months or years, resulting in an alcohol content of 9%–16% ABV.
Wine and aging
Aging changes wine but does not categorically improve it or worsen it. Fruitiness deteriorates rapidly, decreasing markedly after only six months in the bottle.
It is not economical to age cheap wines because of the cost of storage.
Many varieties of wine do not benefit from aging, regardless of the quality.
Wine too old to drink
Wine, say over 100 years old, will not taste very good anymore. At least this is what we expect.
Depending on the wine, it can taste bad within only two years.
The best way to enjoy your wine fresh is to drink it shortly after you buy it. However, you can still enjoy unopened wine about one to five years after the expiration date, while leftover wine can be enjoyed one to five days after it has been opened, depending on the type of wine.
Differences in grapes we eat and wine grapes
The grapes that we eat are different breeds than wine grapes. Most wine grapes are Vitis Vinifera species while table grapes are made from Vitis Lambrusca or other species.
There are many differences between the two.
Table grapes have high production, are large in size, have thin skins, have less sugar and acidity, and overall, less flavour.
Wine grapes yield less per vine, are smaller than table grapes, have thicker skins, more sugar and acidity, and overall, more flavour. This is what gives wine structure and flavour.
Origin of wine grapes
The European wine grape Vitis Vinefera did not come from France, nor Italy. It originated in an unexpected place – the Caucasus Mountains and the Zagros Mountains which contain the highest peaks of Europe.
These mountain ranges span from Armenia through Azerbaijan, Georgia, northern Iran, south-eastern Anatolia, and eastern Turkey.
From Caucasus, wine grapes have followed human civilization as it expanded southward and westward and into the Mediterranean. These seafaring civilizations of the Phoenicians and Greeks were the most responsible for the spread of wine throughout Western Europe. With each new region that was planted, the grapes slowly mutated and adapted to their unique environments. This slow divergence over thousands of years is what created the incredible diversity of the over 1,300 identified wine varieties we have today.
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