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The Real Origin of Wine in South East Europe

Contrary to popular beliefs, wine did not originate in France.

Archaeologists found wine residue dating back to over 8,000 years ago in Georgia. It is said that the people of modern-day Georgia discovered that grape juice ferments to wine after it was buried underground during the winter months.

You may be familiar with the terms “old world” and “new world” when it comes to wine, referring to Europe and everywhere else, respectively. It’s a colonialist perspective, although sommeliers have adopted these terms when discussing winemaking regions and styles based on the origins of modern viticulture. However, Georgia and surrounding regions are actually “ancient world” wine producers, giving credit where it’s due to the true origins of winemaking.

old wine store in Tiblisi Georgia

An old wine shop in Tbilisi. Photo by Egor Myznik.

Funny enough, some of the “hip” wines that are trending in the market today, like orange wine and ancestral sparkling wine are based on ancient winemaking techniques.

In the Ancient World, white wine grapes would be fermented with their skins on for more structure. Nowadays, it’s what we know as orange wine.

Ancestral method sparkling wine has its secondary fermentation in the bottle with live yeast cells that die and become lees. The secondary fermentation results in carbonation while the lees impart a toasty aroma, as is the case with all traditional method sparkling wines. However, in the modern traditional method, the lees are removed before the bottle is corked and sold to you. Meanwhile, ancestral method sparkling wine is sold to you unfiltered, just as it was enjoyed thousands of years ago.

Most of the wines that you’ll find from the ancient world are made using modern winemaking techniques. If you haven’t already tried them, browse the selection at your local wine shop! Cheers.

Read more about the archaeologists’ findings here.