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World’s Oldest Italian Wine Just Discovered

Chemical analysis on ancient pottery, led by a USF professor, could dramatically predate the commencement of winemaking in Italy.

Ancient pottery with wine residue discovered in a cave of Monte Kronio in Agrigento, Italy

Agrigento, Italy (August 24, 2017)- Chemical analysis conducted on ancient pottery could dramatically predate the commencement of winemaking in Italy. A large storage jar from the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC) tests positive for wine.

This finding published in Microchemical Journal is significant as it’s the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula. Traditionally, retrieval of seeds has led to the belief that wine growing and wine production developed in Italy in the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1100 B.C.).  This newest research, led by the University of South Florida, provides a new perspective on the economy of that ancient society.

Copper Age storage jars test positive for wine. 

Lead author Davide Tanasi, PhD, of the University of South Florida in Tampa, conducted chemical analysis of residue on unglazed pottery found at the Copper Age site of Monte Kronio in Agrigento, located off the southwest coast of Sicily. He and his team determined the residue contains tartaric acid and its sodium salt, which occur naturally in grapes and in the winemaking process.

It’s very rare to determine the composition of such residue, because it requires the ancient pottery to be excavated intact. The study’s authors are now trying to determine whether the wine was red or white.

-Story by Tina Meketa, University Communications and Marketing, and photos courtesy of Davide Tanasi

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