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Traces of 6,000-year-old wine could rewrite Italy’s winemaking history

A group of archaeologists have discovered a storage jar in Italy dating back to the Copper Age (4,000BC) containing traces of wine, dramatically predating the presumed commencement of winemaking in Italy.

Credit: Dr. Davide Tanasi, University of South Florida

Traditionally, it’s been believed that wine growing and wine production developed in Italy in the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1100 B.C.), as indicated by the discovery of seeds, ancient storage pots and the remnants of wineries.

However this latest discovery positions the start of Italy’s winemaking heritage even further back in history, indicating that the ability to make wine was acquired in at least 4,000BC – the Copper Age.

A team of archaeologists headed up by Dr Davide Tanasi, from the University of South Florida, made the discovery at a site in Monte Kronio in Agrigento, located off the southwest coast of Sicily.

Upon finding an unglazed piece of pottery at the site, the team conducted chemical analysis of residue, finding traces of tartaric acid and its sodium salt, which occur naturally in grapes and in the winemaking process. The trace elements are thought to date to 4,000BC, making the wine more than 6,000 years old.

According to the team, it’s very rare to determine the composition of such residue as it requires the ancient pottery to be excavated intact, which in this case it was.

This finding, published in Microchemical Journal, is significant as it’s the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula.

The study’s authors are now trying to determine whether the wine was red or white.

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