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New find means Italians made wine 5,000 years ago

Huge casks in a Sicilian cave test positive for wine residue, pushing back the presumed start of wine making on the Italian peninsula by quite a while.

People have been sipping on Italian wine for thousands of years longer than anyone thought, and the revelation comes courtesy of ancient pottery more than 5,000 years old found still soaked in the stuff. 


Chemical analysis on these storage jars mark the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula.

Dr. Davide Tanasi, University of South Florida

Researchers conducted chemical analysis on large storage jars found in a cave in Monte Kronio, Sicily, that date to the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC) and found they tested positive for wine residue.

The discovery has been published in Microchemical Journal and represents the earliest discovery of that deliciously rotten, pounded grape juice on the Italian peninsula. 

The find also pushes the assumed start of wine drinking -- and wine headaches -- there back by a few thousand years. 

Generally it's been thought that wine production didn't get started in Italy until more recently, probably the Middle Bronze Age, or around 1300 to 1100 B.C.

Lead author Davide Tanasi, of the University of South Florida in Tampa conducted the analysis with a team that found tartaric acid and salts in the residue that occur naturally in grapes and winemaking.

One mystery remains, though: was the wine red or white? The researchers are planning further analysis to find out what was the grog of choice for these particular ancient drinkers. 

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