Sicily has one of the more tumultuous histories when it comes to the many Italian wine regions. While it’s been highly-regarded for the qualities of its wines in past, a move towards mass production at the expense of quality on the part of some of the region’s winemakers led to the region developing a poor reputation during the 20thcentury.
Today, some of Sicily’s best winemakers are making great strides towards repairing the region’s reputation. Seeing the Sicily region attached to a bottle of wine is no longer a reason to reconsider your purchase. In fact, many now see the Sicily label as one to be desired on a bottle of wine.
Of course, Sicily has a deep history in the Italian wine industry as well. We already knew that the region had been the home to winemakers for several centuries, or perhaps even for thousands of years. But a recent discovery has cast even more light on the deep history that Sicily has with wine. In fact, this discovery may show that Sicily has been a source of wine for longer than any other region in the world.
So What’s This Discovery?
We’ve written a few articles about the oldest wine in the world during the last couple of months. Strangely, it almost feels like those articles have been the trigger for more activity surrounding this particular title than ever before. No sooner does one ancient discovery seem to establish itself as the oldest wine that another one comes along to challenge for the crown.
That’s exactly what’s happened in Sicily. Researchers have stumbled across traces of wine that may well be the oldest that’s ever been found.
Now, let’s deal with the bad news first. The researchers haven’t found a fully-persevered bottle of wine. This means that there isn’t an actual liquid that you could drink if you had the courage and the desire to find out what a 6,000 year old wine tastes like.
Instead, what they’ve found are the remnants of a few terracotta jars in an old Sicilian cave. That may not seem like the most exciting of discoveries at first glance. Perhaps some archaeologists might love the news of a new bunch of jar fragments, but fans of the Italian wine industry may wonder what all of the fuss is about.
But it’s not the jars themselves that are the big news. It’s the chemicals that the researchers have found on the jars that are the real story here.
These chemicals show that the jars were once used to hold a wine of some description. Most importantly, this discovery is different to many similar discoveries from the past. The chemicals don’t just show that grapes were being grown in the region. If that was the case, you could make the argument that the ancient Sicilians used to eat the grapes, rather than make wine from them.
Instead, the chemical composition of the residue found in the jars could only be created by a wine of some description.
Why Is This Important
On the grandest scale, this discovery is evidence of wines being made as many as 6,000 years ago. While researchers can’t attach an exact date to the residue, it’s certainly older than practically any similar example that’s been found throughout history.
Moreover, it completely changes our understanding of the development of the Italian wine industry. Prior to this discovery, researchers believed that Italians had started making wine in about 1200 BC. That’s about 3200 years ago. This discovery sets that date back by about 3,000 years. This means that Italians may have been making wine, in one form or another, for double the amount of time that we originally believed.
A Long Time Coming
What’s even more remarkable is the amount of time that it’s taken to make this discovery. The jars themselves were initially found way back in 2012. The research process, which was surely meticulous in its nature, took about six years to determine the chemical composition of the residue that had been found in the jars.
Strangely, the discoveries nearest competitor has a similar story. In 2011, researchers found a bunch of remnants of jars in Armenia. Further research found that those jars contained trace amounts of wine as well. Moreover, the researchers dated those traces of wine back to 6,000 years ago as well.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know which discovery is older than the other. But what these dual discoveries mean is that the idea that people were making wines 6,000 years ago is confirmed. Moreover, it appears the practice was more widespread than many had thought possible before.
This has led to some experts speculating on the possibility that humanity’s history with wine stretches back even further than this. In fact, some academics estimate that we may have been making wine for as many as 10,000 years.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to support those claims just yet. But these recent discoveries suggest that there may be some more relics to come. After all, it’s unlikely that winemaking would spread between two different countries in a short space of time. Perhaps there’s evidence of an even older wine to find somewhere along the way.
The Final Word
Let’s be honest about it. We’re never going to find a full bottle of wine that dates back all the way to 4000 BC. It’s likely an impossible task. Wines weren’t stored in bottles during this period, which means there’s practically no way to preserve them for so long.
However, this discoveries may change the way that researchers look at the various pots and other relics that they find at dig sites. It’s likely that a few more pieces will undergo similar chemical testing to see what they once held in the near future. Perhaps that will be our route to finding evidence of a wine that stretches back even further than 6,000 years.
For now, Sicily can certainly look at this discovery as a point of pride for the entire region. After all, it proves that they’ve been making wine for longer than anywhere else in Italy, if not the world.
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