Lonely Planet Writer

Archaeologists discover 5000-year-old traces of grapes at world's first vineyard

Experts in Georgia have long argued that the country is the birthplace of wine-making, and a recent discovery by archaeologists adds weight to this lofty claim: a ceramic jar has been unearthed which contains traces of grape pollen thought to be 5000 years old and from the world’s first vineyard.

5000-year-old grapes found in Georgia.
5000-year-old grape traces found in Georgia. Image by Matthias Hiltner / CC BY 2.0

The ancient animal-shaped vessel was discovered at Aradetis Orgora an archaeological site around 100km from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. The discovery was examined by Dr Eliso Kvavadze at the Museum of Georgia in Tblisi and was found to contain pollen grains of the grape variety Vitis vinifera, which is still used in wine production today.

The jar has three feet and a pouring hole at the back, and experts say it would have been filled with wine to be used in ritual ceremonies carried out by the Kura-Araxes people around 3000 BC. It was discovered alongside another vessel in a rectangular-shaped area which could have formed a kind of shrine.

Speaking to The Mirror, Professor Elena Rova, of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, explained the historical significance of the find: “The context of discovery suggests wine was drawn from the jar and offered to the gods or commonly consumed by the participants to the ceremony.” Such ceremonies are still carried out today, and a variety of offerings are used, depending on the culture, including olive oil and ghee.

Wine producers in Georgia have continued to make wine using the same “qveri” technique since production began in the region approximately 8000 years ago. With this method, the grapes are fermented in large clay vessels in the ground, along with the skins, pips and sometimes even stalks, resulting in a unique flavour and amber appearance.