As you know, wine is an alcoholic drink made from grapes. But did you know that the oldest evidence for wine was found in China. Archaeologists suggest that the Chinese made wine using grapes as early as 9,000 years ago.
Residues or shards of pottery from the early Neolithic sites in China showed traces of tartaric acid, similar to what you would find at the bottom of corked wine bottles presently. The grapes used in early Chinese winemaking were probably from a wild species of the fruit that grows in China. European grapes were introduced into China only in the second century BC.
Wines in Western Asia
The earliest evidence of winemaking in Western Asia was from the Neolithic period in Hajji Firuz, Iran. Sedimentary deposits found in the area showed a mix of tannin and tartrate crystals. The evidence has been carbon dated to 5400 to 5000 BC. Other signs of grape processing were found in the Lake Zeriber area of Iran where grape pollen traces were found, dating back to 4300 years BC. In southern Turkey, fragments of charred grape skin were found at the Kurban Höyük, dating between the late 6th to the early 5th millennia BC.
In the early days of dynastic Egypt, wine importation from Western Asia was a lucrative business. A tomb that belonged to the Scorpion King (dating to 3150 BC) contained about 700 jars that used to be filled with wine and were transported to Egypt.
Winemaking in Europe
In Europe, evidence of the presence of the wild grape Vitis vinifera was found in ancient settings, such as at the Franchthi Cave (in Argolis, Greece) and at the Balma de l’Abeurador in the Pyrenees region of France—both about 10,000 years ago.
The evidence of domesticated grapes in Europe came later than it did in East Asia and at about the same time as in Western Asia. Greek excavation sites in Dikili Tash showed grape pips that were dated between 4400 and 4000 BC. This was the earliest evidence of winemaking in the Aegean area.
A wine production facility was identified to exist at a site in Armenia in 4000 BC. The evidence consisted of a surface for grape crushing and evidence of red wine fermentation.
The next time you pick up a glass of wine, savor it just a little bit longer in light of its rich and storied history.