4100 B.C. Was a Good Year for Wine

What’s your favorite vintage? 2005? 2007? How about 4100 B.C.? That’s the year scientists have dated the earliest known winery, discovered in a cavern in Armenia. The international team of researchers, based out of UCLA, found a vat they believe was used for pressing grapes, along with the remains of crushed grapes, seeds, vine leaves, storage jars, and drinking cups in an archaeological site known as Areni-1.

Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia and author of Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages, told the AP, “The evidence argues convincingly for a winemaking facility.” In Uncorking the Past, McGovern explores a provocative hypothesis about the integral role libations have played in human evolution, from the rice wines of China and Japan to the corn beers of the Americas to the millet and sorghum drinks of Africa.

The winemaking site in Armenia was surrounded by graves, leading researchers to believe the wine was used in a ceremonial context. McGovern supports this theory: “Even in lowland regions like ancient Egypt where beer reigned supreme, special wines from the Nile Delta were required as funerary offerings and huge quantities of wine were consumed at major royal and religious festivals,” he explained.

The Wall Street Journal also covered the story, and created a video that features photographs from the dig site. Watch it below: