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Winemaking Began In The Middle East 11,000 Years Ago

Researchers traced the history of winemaking to the Middle East using more than 3,000 unique vine samples

Winemaking began in the Middle East 11,000 years ago, reveals a new research.

Wild grapes were domesticated by the first farmers at the end of the last Ice Age and identification of the “cradle of wine” accurately dates its invention for the first time.

The discovery opens the door to developing vintages more suited to global warming, say scientists. 

It is based on the largest-ever genetic analysis of vine varieties. Mapping showed settlers in the “Fertile Crescent started cultivation”- a sickle-shaped zone stretching from the Nile Valley in the west to western Iran.

Wine appetizers with different grapes, figs, walnuts, bread, honey and goat cheese on a ceramic plate over old wooden background. NATASHA BREEN/GETTY IMAGES

At the same time, their cousins hundreds of miles away around present day Armenia and Georgia were doing the same. Co-author Dr. Wei Chen, of Yunnan Agricultural University, said: “Our collaborators reached out to their connections and looked for old and local varieties.

“For instance, a lot of the Armenia samples from old vineyards turned out to be undocumented varieties.”

The data also reveals genes that boosted flavor, color and texture and it could help today’s winemakers produce varieties more resilient to climate change and other stresses.

The study in the journal Science sheds light on the ancient muscat taste too. At least one mutation underlying it may harm plants. Researchers sequenced more than 3,000 individual vine samples collected from across the world – ranging from wild locations to specimens in private collections.

Dr. Chen said: “This work represents a major international collaborative effort, challenging to do in any circumstances but especially so given that we conducted it during the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.”

Georgia is generally considered the “cradle of wine.” Archaeologists have traced it back to the people of the South Caucasus in 7,000 BC.

They turned grape juice into the beverage by burying it underground – for up to 50 years. Even though wine and grapes are very important culturally when wine and table grapevines were domesticated, and where, has been difficult to confirm.

This is primarily due to the lack of comprehensive genomic sequencing analysis. Other theories suggest the cultivated wine grapevine (Vitis vinifera) had a single domestication in the Middle East, from which all wine varieties stemmed. These claim it happened up to 4,000 years before the advent of agriculture.

Professor Robin Allaby, an expert in plant evolution at the University of Warwick who was not involved in the study, said: “Despite being separated by over 620 miles, the two domestication processes appear to have occurred contemporaneously with a high degree of shared signatures of selection on the same genes.”

Two people are taking a walk in the vineyards near Stuttgart-Uhlbach. 11,000 years ago, winemaking first emerged in the Middle East. CHRISTOPH SCHMIDT/GETTY IMAGES

Wine has been one of mankind’s favorite drinks for millennia. This stems from the taste, nutritional properties – and intoxicating effects.

Out of all alcoholic drinks, none has had such an impact on society. The wine trade between cultures opened channels for religious and philosophical ideas to spread across Europe.

Wine is frequently mentioned in the bible from Noah and his grape vines to Jesus. It is, to this day, used in the Catholic Church as a substitute for the blood of Christ. Centuries ago, the wine industry was also the mark of a sophisticated country. 

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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