The earliest known winery has been uncovered in a
cave in the mountains of Armenia.
A vat to press the grapes, fermentation jars and
even a cup and drinking bowl dating to about 6,000
years ago were discovered in the cave complex by an
international team of researchers.
While older evidence of wine drinking has been found,
this is the earliest example of complete wine
production, according to Gregory Areshian of the
University of California, Los Angeles,
co-director of the excavation.
The findings, announced Tuesday by the
National Geographic Society, are published in
the online edition of the Journal of Archaeological
"The evidence argues convincingly for a wine-making
facility," said Patrick McGovern, scientific
director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory
at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in
Philadelphia, who was not part of the research
Such large scale wine production implies that the
Eurasian grape had already been domesticated, said
McGovern, author of "Uncorking the Past: The Quest
for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages."
The same Armenian area was the site of the discovery
of the oldest known leather shoe, dated about 5,500
years ago. That discovery at the area known as
Areni-1 was reported last summer.
According to the archeologists, inside the cave was a
shallow basin about 3-feet across that was positioned to
drain into a deep vat.
The basin could have served as a wine press where people
stomped the grapes with their feet, a method Areshian
noted was traditional for centuries.
They also found grape seeds, remains of pressed grapes
and dozens of dried vines. The seeds were from the same
type of grapes — Vitis vinifera vinifera — still used to
The earliest comparable remains were found in the tomb
of the ancient Egyptian king Scorpion I, dating to
around 5,100 years ago.
Because the wine-making facility was found surrounded by
graves, the researchers suggest the wine may have been
intended for ceremonial use.
That made sense to McGovern, who noted that wine was the
main beverage at funeral feasts and later used for tomb
Indeed, he said: "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
McGovern noted that similar vats for treading on grapes
and jars for storage have been found around the
In his books, McGovern has suggested that a "wine
culture," including the domestication of the Eurasian
grape, was first consolidated in the mountainous regions
around Armenia before moving to the south.