The Discovery of a 3,700-Year-Old Cellar Reveals the Origins of WineS

Wine is old as hell and probably came from Israel, based on the discovery of a 3,700 year-old cellar in the city of Tel Kabri. What did the wine of yesteryear taste like? Accounts range from "medicinal" to "hints of cinnamon."

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have the story of a team from George Washington University, which uncovered 40 three-foot-tall jars containing what was once wine. Although the wine itself wasn't preserved, lab results from organic residue revealed that it was very likely the familiar fermented liquid made from grapes.

But why do we care? Because before this, the oldest collection of fine wines ever found was in Egypt, in the tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I in Egypt. That particular collection dates back to more like 3,000 B.C., but the problem there is that Egypt didn't have any naturally-occurring grapes. Scientists had long believed that grapes had been sourced from sea-faring Canaanites a little bit further north. And this new finding corroborates that hypothesis.

One interesting part of the find is that the scientists could actually figure out what the old ass wine tasted like. "Sweet, strong, and medicinal," says the WSJ:

The scientists focused their efforts on fragments close to the base of the jars, which would have been in contact with the stored wine and absorbed some of it. They extracted the organic residues trapped in the pores and analyzed them chemically. Andrew Koh, an archaeological scientist at Brandeis University, said he discovered the telltale signature of tartaric acid, a key component in grapes. He also found traces of compounds which suggested that other ingredients could have been added to the wine, including honey, mint and herbs.

And the team of brainy winos might have even more to go off of—a few days before the dig ended, they found another pair of doors in the cellar, which they think might lead to more wine. Unfortunately, the whole "wine gets better with age" maxim probably expires after a millennium or so. [WSJ]

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