Humans have been drinking wine for at least 8000 years

State-of-the-art methods of chemical extraction revealed tartaric acid and the organic acids malic succinic and citric

'World's oldest wine' found in 8000-year-old jars in Georgia

"The infinite range of flavours and aromas of today's 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again", says archaeologist Stephen Batiuk from the University of Toronto.

Georgia, which has a long heritage of winemaking, is positioned at a crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, and the grape identified in jar fragments excavated from two Neolithic-era villages is Vitis vinifera - aka the "Eurasian grapevine", from which almost all kinds of modern wine originate. The find in Georgia dates to about 6,000 BC, the researchers said.

Neolithic pottery shards were found to contain grape wine residue from 6000-5800 B.C., nearly 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Georgia, famous for its endless rounds of heartfelt toasts that can run into the wee hours of the morning, just unseated Iran as the home of the first wine produced from the Eurasian grape, popular with millions of wine-lovers around the globe.

Large jars called qvevri, similar to the ancient ones, are still used for wine-making in Georgia, said David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum who helped lead the research. "The grapes are crushed and the fruit, stems and seeds are all fermented together", he told the BBC.

The shards tested positive for tartaric acid, which gives wine its tart flavor, and were dated to the early Neolithic period, 6000-5000 B.C. They also contained samples of grape pollen.

The world's very first wine is thought to have been made from rice in China around 9,000 years ago.

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Researchers also found three organic acids associated with wine - malic, succinic and citric - in the residue from the jars.

Some of these jars were pretty big - a comparable jar uncovered in a nearby site holds 300 litres (79 gallons), which could have held the contents of 400 wine bottles today.

"Wine is central to civilisation as we know it in the West".

"As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society in the ancient Near East", he said.

The discoveries in Georgia knock Iran off its pedestal as the birthplace of the booze-up, with its wine dating back to 5,400-5,000 BC.

'We've re-excavated sites at Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora, taking much more care with the samples than was formerly possible'.

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