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Archaeologists uncover 1,900-year-old winery in the Rhône

A group of French archaeologists have discovered an ancient winery on a plot of land set to become a parking lot in the Rhône Valley’s Drôme department.

Archaeologists uncover 1,900-year-old winery in the Rhône

Researchers at the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Preventives (INRAP) announced the discovery in November, according to Wine Spectator.

The institute, overseen by France’s Ministry of Culture, began its dig near the town of Laveyron in the Rhône’s Drôme department in May 2023, and discovered the ancient winery.

The ruins in a 4-acre (1.6 hectares) were uncovered on a site set to become a heavy goods vehicle parking lot for Saica Group, a manufacturer of recycled paper. Evidence of ceramic terracotta vessels commonly used for winemaking, and amphora fragments were found at the ruin.

Initial analysis suggests that the winery could date back to the first century AD. However, there is evidence that the site could be built on top of even older infrastructures.

INRAP operations and research manager Pascale Réthoré told Wine Spectator via email that the site “probably already had a small infrastructure dedicated to wine”. Later, Romans are assumed to have expanded the winery, which featured presses, cellars and basins for collecting grape juice. “[The winery] undoubtedly expanded with commercial success,” Réthoré explained. “The proximity of the Rhône [river] undoubtedly helped in its success.”

He added: “It seems that the quality of the wine of this region, and therefore probably of its terroir, has been recognized since antiquity.”

Excavations will finish in January 2024. However, development is set to continue at the site after archaeologists complete their excavations and researchers finish studying all evidence, meaning the ancient site could still be destroyed.

Rhône Valley viticulture may go back centuries, but this recent discovery is not the oldest to have been found in recent months. Complete wine jars that are still intact and containing ‘well-preserved remains’ of 5,000-year-old wine were discovered in Egypt in October. Find out more about them here.

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