At Xtrawine, we have a deep respect for the history of wine in all of its guises. While we talk most often about Italian wine and the many producers that have built the industry, it’s also important to understand how the industry has developed over the millennia.
After all, it’s only through the efforts of the first winemakers that we were able to build an industry in the first place.
That’s why we think that any ancient find that relates to wine is so important. From a historical context, it allows it to slot another piece into the puzzle of how the global wine industry came to be what it is.
Plus, it’s also interesting to find out that wine has been produced in regions that we may not have known were used for wine production.
Such was the case with one of the most recent historical discoveries. In Israel’s Korazim National Park, archaeologists have been conducting research and digs. And they’ve discovered something remarkable that seems to suggest that Israel, which isn’t well-known as a wine producing nation, may have a much deeper history in the production of wine than any of us may have realised.
The Details of the Discovery
Excavations in the park have unveiled an ancient winepress that’s distinguished with a spectacular mosaic floor. This suggests that the park used to be the location of an established wine producer who clearly had enough business to build a dedicated wine press.
Early testing has established that the press comes from the Talmudic era, which spans between the years 500 and 700 AD. And it was found as part of a public excavation at the park that visitors could actively take part in.
The Dagesh Company has taken partial credit for the find as they’re the ones in charge of managing the digs in the park. However, they’re working in conjunction with a host of other organisations dedicated to important research. These include Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority and Ariel University. The Rakefet Fund of the Finance Ministry has also provided assistance in the digging project.
The winepress was found when the excavators uncovered part of the mosaic flooring. They had no idea that a ruined building lay under the land. After immediately reporting the find, the team got to work to see what they would unearth.
The full ruins of a winepress were the result.
But it took several years to get to that point. In fact, site director Dekel Segev says the team knew of the mosaic for several years. They just hadn’t explored it further as they didn’t know it was part of a larger discovery.
As he says: “A very small part of the mosaic was discovered many years ago but was covered and not fully exposed, among other reasons, for conservation reasons. In recent years, a few stones from it were scattered throughout the area, but it was difficult to determine its precise location.”
It turned out that the mosaic was much larger than anticipated.
What Makes the Winepress so Impressive?
While it’s certainly not unheard of to find a winepress in this area of the world, it’s the decoration combined with the winepress’s size that make it such an important discovery.
As mentioned, it has a gorgeous mosaic pattern on the floor that’s remarkably well conserved. The press itself stands at 172sqft and still has fairly clear lines of demarcation where the building itself once stood. We can see clear signs of where the walls used to be, which helps to give us a good idea of the scale of the winemaker’s operation.
It’s also remarkable for the fact that there had previously been no mosaics discovered that researchers could link back Korazim, which was an ancient Jewish village during the Talmudic period.
As Segev points out, this discovery provides more insight into what drove the economy of this ancient village.
“There were Jews living here, who drank wine and also made wine, as part of the olive oil and wheat industries of Korazim. The winepress provides us with an additional dimension to the uniqueness and completeness of the village, including all its characteristics, including residential, agricultural, ritual baths and, of course, the magnificent synagogue.”
As such, the winepress acts as further proof of Jewish settlement on the land as far back as the 500s. It also suggests that wine was important to the economy of the ancient village. The fact that the winepress was built into the village itself suggests that wine was a central part of the village’s agricultural work. In fact, it’s a rare example of a winepress from this era that’s actually within the confines of an ancient village.
What is a Winepress?
You may not know what purpose a winepress serves.
In modern times, its purpose has been taken over by modern tools and machinery designed to press grapes to extract their juices.
In the Talmudic era, the traditional ways of pressing wine would have still been the norm. Winemakers of the time would have installed a large basin in the building that they would fill with grapes. They would then step inside the basin and use their feet to crush the grapes. Often, larger basins would have wooden support beams built over them to help the pressers stay upright.
The basin would also have several containers around its sides, with each having a tap that ran into it. As the winemakers pressed the grapes, the juices would run through the taps and into these containers.
And that would be the first step in the production of ancient wine. The resulting juice would then undergo the fermentation process.
An Important Discovery For All
The discovery of this winepress only goes to show how important winemaking was for many ancient civilisations.
Here, it’s clear that wine was a crucial part of the ancient village of Korazim’s economy. And we’re delighted that the winepress has been found in such good condition.
Hopefully, Korazim National Park will unveil more of its secrets as excavators continue their work.