A team of international archaeologists has discovered a wine press built for stomping grapes in the Areni cave in the south of Armenia. Among the artifacts, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, withered grape vines, skins, and seeds have been unearthed as well.
The construction of the press suggests that Copper Age winemakers used the strength of their legs to press their wine. After pressing, the juice from the trampled grapes was drained into a vat to stay and ferment for some time. Then, the wine was stored in jars. The cool and dry conditions of the cave made it an ideal wine cellar.
Ancient-wine expert, a biomolecular archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia Patrick E. McGovern called the find “important and unique because it indicates large-scale wine production, which would imply that the grape had already been domesticated”. Apparently, the discovery of winemaking from domesticated grapevines emerging on the territory of modern Armenia appears to match with previous DNA studies of cultivated grape varieties, according to McGovern.
Armenian Highlands is actually considered the birthplace of viniculture. In the region, wine is believed to have been used for religious and ritualistic purposes. The study team thinks that the discovery is important as the development of winemaking is considered a critical social and technological breakthrough among ancient societies.
For example, viticulture promoted the establishment of more sophisticated forms of agriculture. To make wine, the ancient vintners had to understand the growth cycles of grapes. They had to know how much water was necessary, how to protect the harvest from fungi, and how to fight against flies living on the plant.
Chemical analysis of the wine residue dated the winery at 4,100 BC. Archaeologist of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Gregory Areshian said, “This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production.”