Chemical evidence of wine, dating back to 6000–5800 BC (the early Neolithic period), was obtained from residues of ancient pottery excavated in the archeological sites of Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, about 50 km south of Tbilisi in Georgia. The residues were identified as wine since they contained tartaric acid, which only occurs in large amounts in the Eurasian grape (Vitis vinifera) in the Middle East and the wine made from it. The detection of other organic acids (malic, citric and succinic), also found in the Eurasian grape, provided confirmatory evidence.
The wine residues were recovered from large-capacity jars, which were probably used for fermentation, ageing and storage. Prior to this discovery, the oldest chemically identified wine from Hajji Firuz Tepe (Iran) dated back to about 5400–5000 BC. These new findings are from about 600–1,000 years earlier, and indicate that wine-making and possibly viticulture were already in place about 8,000 years ago.
The discovery was made by Prof. Patrick McGovern, a molecular archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and lead author of the study “Early Neolithic Wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus”, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on 13 November 2017, and scientists from institutions in Georgia, France, Italy, Israel, Canada, Denmark and the USA, who participated in the joint “Research Project for the Study of Georgian Grapes and Wine Culture”.