Getty Images

The history of Italian wine is being re-written.

Elisabeth Sherman
August 25, 2017

How long have humans been unwinding with, uncorking, and generally enjoying wine? For over 5,000 years, it turns out.  Researchers have uncovered the oldest wine to date in Italy, confirming the drink has long been considered one of the basic necessities needed to—let’s be honest—sustain human life.

The team, led by David Tansai of the University of South Florida, turned up a piece of ancient pottery in a cave in Italy that showed traces of tartaric acid—the main ingredient researchers look for when tracing the history of wine—according to a report from New Atlas. The presence of tartaric acid, which is responsible for maintaining the chemical stability of wine, has been found in wine-making equipment that can be traced back to Iran and China as early as 7000 B.C.

Before this discovery, researchers and wine historians were generally under the impression that Italians started making wine around 2,500 years ago (they would eventually teach the process to the French, as NPR reports). The wine grape Vitis vinifera was first domesticated in the Mediterranean (probably by the Greeks and Phoenicians) about 9,000 years ago. Now it seems as though Italians were actually producing wine much earlier than previously thought. 

Tansai’s discovery rewrites some of the history behind wine's origins: The jar he unearthed at a Copper Age site on the southwest coast of Sicily dates back to 4,000 B.C. When his team performed chemical analysis of the jar, they found (as documented in this study) that it contained residue from both tartaric acid and sodium, making it the oldest wine ever discovered on the Italian peninsula.

The wine joins a whole slew of ancient food discoveries lately, from a more than 2,000-year-old tea, a wine bar in France from around the same era, and a 3,000-year-old beer recipe that's being re-brewed and sold for modern-day drinkers to enjoy.

The next step for the researchers is to determine if the wine stored in the jug was red or white, perhaps finally confirming what type of wine ancient humans liked to get buzzed on the most. The answer for their modern counterparts? Probably rosé.