Is the earliest wine getting earlier and earlier?

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There’s been a rash of stories about how new grape varieties will be needed to fight disease if wineries are to keep flowing. As far as I can tell, because I haven’t seen anyone link to the paper, it’s based on Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape and Open Access paper in PNAS (back-up link because the doi isn’t working). Sean Myles argues that there’s plenty of room to develop new varieties of grape by careful cross-breeding.

A surprising result (to me) is that the date for domestication is by 5,000 years ago. Meanwhile in related archaeological research, the earliest evidence of wine-making equipment has been found in Areni, Armenia dating from around 4100 BC. The two don’t necessarily contradict each other. For a start the Armenian winery could have been using grapes that were abandoned for superior varieties, but I don’t know how accurate the dating is on either side as I haven’t had chance to read the papers properly. If it’s the latest common ancestor then that’s close to a match.

Myles places the earliest domestication as a region of the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas. Here’s a map with the Areni winery marked.

View Areni and Grapes in a larger map

h/t BBC News.


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