Deep in a Sicilian cave inside terracotta jars is Italy’s oldest wine, which shows that wine was being consumed there 6,000 years ago, pushing back wine production in Italy by three millennia. Scientists had previously thought that winemaking began in Italy during the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1100 BC). However, this latest find shows that wine was actually being made during the Copper Age and 4th millennium BC according to a new study published in the Microchemical Journal and reported by Science Daily.
The unglazed pottery containing the 6,000-year-old wine was discovered just off the coast of Sicily at Monte Kronio in Agrigento. The University of Southern Florida’s Davide Tanasi was the lead author of this study and performed the chemical analysis of the residue that was left behind inside the terracotta jars, which showed that there was tartaric acid in the jars with its sodium salt, something naturally present in grapes as well as wine production.
Tanasi explained that working at this Copper Age site was exceedingly helpful when compared with previous studies based on grape vines alone.
“Unlike earlier discoveries that were limited to vines and so showed only that grapes were being grown, our work has resulted in the identification of a wine residue. That obviously involves not just the practice of viticulture but the production of actual wine – and during a much earlier period.”
Researchers have spoken of the 6,000-year-old wine residue found in the Sicilian cave as “the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula,” according to the Guardian. The exciting find of the Copper Age wine was all part of a study with the goal of gathering more information about early societies and their lifestyles, as an excerpt from Science Direct reveals.
“The goal was to shed new light on the use of certain ceramic shapes and infer some hypothesis about ancient dietary habits.”
— CNN International (@cnni) August 31, 2017
But what were the terracotta jars doing in the cave in Sicily to begin with? Davide Tanasi surmises that they may have been left there as an offering to appease the gods, noting that Monte Kronio was once considered a sacred place, as CNN reported.
“The cave site of Monte Kronio is also a cult place used for religious practices from prehistory to Classical times. This discovery has important archaeological and historical implications.”
While some scientists believe that wine production has been going on for 10,000 years, the only other time there has been shown to be such early evidence of winemaking was in Armenia, which also dated back 6,000 years. However, in that particular case it was not proven that the residue found was definitively wine.
The reason for this is because the traces of malvidin that were found may have come from pomegranates rather than grapes as pomegranates are quite common in Armenia. In Sicily, on the other hand, the malvidin traces found have been proven to come from grapes as there were no pomegranates in the area at the time that the terracotta jars were in use during the Copper Age. Alessio Planeta, a local Sicilian historian, has said that the discovery of the 6,000-year-old wine “fills us with joy.”
Researchers have said that the next part of their study will be to determine whether the 6,000-year-old wine found in the Sicilian cave was red or white.
[Featured Image by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]