|This is a ancient wine press, which the recent |
discovery predates. The earlier model was much smaller.
The excavation site points to a complex society where mourners tasted a special wine made at a caveside cemetery.
"This is the world's oldest known installation to make wine," Gregory Areshian of the University of California Los Angeles, who helped lead the study, said in a telephone interview.
Apparently this was an estate winery operation as carbon dating showed a desiccated grape vine found near a wine press was grown around 4000 BC. The find is 1,000 years older than any other wine-making facility discovered according to the research team from Armenia, the United States and Ireland.
The wine press would have held a few gallons of juice and crushed grapes, and the winemakers likely used the time-honored technique of barefoot stomping.
Chemical traces point to grape juice and since there was no refrigeration, the juice would certainly have been fermented into wine, Areshian said.
The culture of wine in the vicinity is very old and traditional. The rich red wines currently produced there are merlots and cabernet sauvignons.
The expedition was paid for in part by the National Geographic Society. The cave complex, known as Areni-1, is in the Little Caucasus Mountains near Armenia's southern border with Iran.
The press itself is a shallow clay basin about three feet (one meter) in diameter, surrounded by grape seeds and dried-out grape vines.