When I’ve wondered about how old wine could possibly be, I envision a cave woman putting grapes that were brought to her in some kind of container. Her mate also brought way too many grapes, so the weight of the grapes, plus not being able to eat them all right away, began the fermenting process.
But, how does anyone prove any of this, not having been there?
Well, it’s pretty simple in a complex way. Wine can be traced back to the VI Century B.C in Georgia.
Pips (seeds) have been found. Seeds alone aren’t the defining moment, as much as also finding the seeds in conjunction with finding clay pots. Clay pots aren’t enough proof, either. It’s the next evidence that nails it. Inside the pots were traces of mineral salts, the same salts that are found in tartaric acid… those white crystals that you’ll sometimes find in wine.
The Aha moment… pips and pots and tartaric acid.
When I met with delegates from Georgia this past spring, I was handed the 2012 edition of the Georgian Wine Guide, written by Malkhaz Kharbedia. Both Oto Sharashenidze (Pheasant’s Tears) and Iago Bitarishvili (Iago’s Wine) wanted me to learn as much as I could, and I eagerly accepted the book. Since then, I’ve been reading bits and pieces, knowing that I need to just get more engaged. This is the beginning of that engagement, and I’m going to share ~ given the nature of the topic, most especially as it relates to the history of wine, from the cradle of all humanity.
According to this book, archeobotanical evidence is pointing to modern Georgia and the mountainous Near East (including Turkey and northwest Iran) as the area where wine culture “took root.”
Patrick E. McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum wrote in the forward of this book: “… 99.9 percent of the world’s wines today derives from these bold innovations in the Neolithic Near East.”
In other words… with the Neolithic period, which was the last part of the Stone Age when farming began, the earth delivering grapes for cultivating, and this gift from Mother Nature began the civilizing of humanity, all beginning with pips and …. [This also reminds me how slowly that civilizing process is taking, probably not exactly what Mother Nature had in mind.]
Georgia is now experiencing a Renaissance in winemaking, and currently wants to be known for more than just where it all began.
This modern thinking is admirable. Still, for me as a person who can’t get enough information about wine, I need to start with the origins of wine, so that when I finally search out, find, and enjoy Georgian wines, I’ll have complete appreciation and understanding of what I’m enjoying…. tasting history that’s 6,000 years old.
I’ve been here once before, but in another country, when I wrote, To Understand Portuguese Wines, One Must First Understand the People. To understand the wines of Georgia, one must first understand their history, and off we go…