Archaeological evidence of ancient winemaking

Humans have been drinking wine for a really long time according to archaeological findings dating back thousands of years. In the last few years alone, archaeologists in the Middle East and Mediterranean have found vats, pressing platforms, jugs and even cups to support that red wine has been enjoyed for centuries.



In June 2013, Popular Archaeology announced early winemaking evidence found in Southern France by a team of French and U.S. archaeologists. A pressing platform as well as imported Etruscan amphorae (pottery introduced by ancient Greeks) was found in an ancient Port site named Lattara. Marking and material show that the amphora pottery was made in central Italy.


*Wine press found in Lattara. Credit: Michael Py*

More specifically, the artifacts were found in a merchants quarters where the walls date back to 525-475 BCE. The pressing platform is dated at 425 BCE. Residue left on these tools was tested positive for compounds of Eurasian grapes and wine similar to those found in the Middle East.


Armenian, U.S. and Irish archaeologists found the oldest winery in an Armenian cave back in September of 2010.  This site is also the exact location where the oldest shoe was found, a mere 5,500 years old.  In the winery a wine press, clay vat, grape seeds and even an animal horn cup were found. These artifacts are said to be over 6,000 years old and made during the Copper Age (4100 B.C.E.). To put the evidence in perspective, during the Copper Age, humans also invented the wheel and domesticated horses.


*Vats found in Armenian cave. Credit: Gregory Areshian*

Archaeologist Gregory Areshian of UCLA told National Geographic, “This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production.” Fortunately, this evidence was well preserved due to layers of sheep dung and the limestone walls. Chemical analysis of the artifacts showed red wine was made in the vats.


Many winemaking sites have been found in Italy. Today however, Italian archaeologists are attempting to make red wine exactly how ancient Romans used to. At the University of Catania in Sicily, research manager Mario Indelicato has lead his team in planting vineyards of Nerello Mascalese, using ancient techniques of using wooden tools fastened with canes. They expect 70 litres for their first vintage in 2017.


*Dionysos. Roman God of Wine*

During the winemaking process, Indelicato says, “We will not use fermenting agents, but rely on the fermentation of the grapes themselves, which will make it as hit and miss as it was then.” Fermentation will take place in terracotta pots lined in beeswax. The pots will be buried in the ground up to their neck, allowing the mouth to be exposed to air.  No modern chemicals will be added, instead, water and honey will used to sweeten the flavour and minimize acidity.


Thousands of years have passed and wine is still a valuable and cultural addition to a meal with friends, or unwinding at the end of the day (we can thank the Greeks for that). Clearly technology and practice has allowed for us humans to create complex wines in state of the art wineries, but we have to thank the genius passed down from ancient ancestors. Who knows where wine will be centuries from now, but we do hope WineCollective is still delivering the juicy goodness to your front door (potentially via aircraft and/or teleportation).