A vineyard near Mt Etna, Sicily. Winemaking may have begun on the island more than 6,000 years ago

Traces of 6,000-year-old wine discovered in italy

MON 21 JAN 2019 03:23 AM.

Traces of 6,000-year-old wine discovered in italy:

The storage jars in which traces of wine residue were found
The storage jars in which traces of wine residue were found

Researchers have found traces of what could be the world’s oldest wine at the bottom of terracotta jars in a cave in Sicily.

Showing that the fermented drink was being made and consumed in Italy more than 6000 years ago.

Previously scientists had believed wine making developed in Italy around 1200 BC, but the find by a team from the University of South Florida pushes that date back by at least 3 millennia.

“Unlike earlier discoveries that were limited to vines and so showed only that grapes were being grown, our work has resulted in the identifications of a wine residue,” said Davide Tanasi, the archeologist who led the research.

“That obviously involves not just the practice of viticulture but the production of actual wines – and during a much earlier period,” Tanasi said.

Published in the Microchemical Journal, the findings was significant because it was “the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula”, the researchers said.

The 5 organic residue samples taken from late copper age storage jars found in 2012 in a limestone cave on Monte Kronio, near the fishing harbour of Sciacca on Sicily south west coast, were dated to the fourth millennium BC.

“We conducted chemical analysis on the ancient pottery and identified the presence of tartaric acids and its salt,” Enrico Greco, a chemistry researcher at the University of Catania who was involved in the research, told the Guardian.

Known as cream of tartar, the salt of tartaric acid, which is the main acid component in grapes, develops naturally during wine making.

“The presence of these molecules allows us to confirm the use of this vessel as a wine container,” Greco stated.

While some experts have suggested humans may have been making wine as long as 10000 years ago, the earliest known evidence of wine making – also about 6000 years old – was uncovered in 2011 near the village of Areni in Armenia.

But in that case scientists said they could not exclude the possibility that traces of malvidin discovered in the residue they recovered could have come from pomegranates, a common fruit in Armenia and its national symbol.

In the Sicilian find, the malvidin can only have come from grapes since pomegranates did not exist in the area.

The discovery “fills us with joy”, said Alessio Planeta, a wine making expert and historian from the area, which remains one of Italy’s most vital wine-producing regions. “Before this, we used to thinking Sicily’s wine culture arrived with the islands colonisation by the ancient Greeks.”