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11.29.2005

Unlocking The Secrets of The First Winemakers

I would post this story just for the accompanying picture of the caveman stomping wines in a bearskin, but as a bonus, it's actually a piece of interesting news about the earliest days of winemaking by humans. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have been studying early winemaking for some time, and have reached the conclusion based on some primitive clay jugs. These large vessels, capable of holding around 2.5 gallons were found buried in the Northern Zagros Mountains of Iran, and contained residues which seem to be wine.

The interesting thing is that these jugs are about 6000 years old, and were created by a culture that was fairly primitive even by the standards of the time (about 1000 miles away, the Egyptians were busy building the first pyramids). By any measure, even for the Egyptians, who were just starting to figure out wine at this point as well, that's pretty early and may be a good indication of how wine was first made in primitive cultures.

Speculation abounds about how humans first figured out that fermenting berries was a good idea, but one of the popular theories which is proffered in the article suggests that perhaps we observed birds eating naturally fermented berries and acting loopy, so we gave it a try.

Regardless, its always interesting to me to speculate how we started making this magical liquid which, as the article also points out, some people have said may be "the primary agent for the development of Western civilization." Now THERE'S an idea. Check out the full article.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud