Previously, the oldest evidence of winemaking was found in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, and dated to between 5500 B.C. and 5000 B.C. The new discovery, dated to 6000 B.C., shows that people were enjoying the alcoholic drink a good 600 to 1,000 years longer than formerly thought, the researchers said.
Archeologists from Canada are among a team of researchers who say they've unearthed the earliest evidence of winemaking in the world, dating the origin of the practice back hundreds of years earlier than previously believed.
The excavations on the project were conducted by a team from the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum as part of a larger research project investigating the emergence of viniculture in the region.
The earthenware jars containing residual wine compounds were found in two sites south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, researchers said.
It's not the oldest sign of winemaking; other evidence shows that a beverage that mixed grape wine with rice beer and other ingredients was produced as long as 9,000 years ago in China.
State-of-the-art methods of chemical extraction revealed tartaric acid, and the organic acids malic, succinic and citric, the researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"What this shows is that (winemaking) was done in small scale in little villages and in the Neolithic period - and it's a period when we're experimenting with agriculture", said Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto's Archaeology Centre, who co-authored the study.
Dr Batiuk said: 'Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine.
GRAPE represents the Canadian component of a larger worldwide, interdisciplinary project involving researchers from the United States, Denmark, France, Italy and Israel.
A view of the excavations at Gadachrili Gora in Georgia, taken by a drone.
The period is characterised by the start of farming and animal domestication, as well as crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the production of polished stone tools. "We're filling out the story of wine, this liquid that's so pivotal to so many cultures-to western civilisation, really".
"In essence, what we are examining is how the Neolithic package of agricultural activity, tool-making and crafts that developed further south in modern Iraq, Syria and Turkey adapted as it was introduced into different regions with different climate and plant life", he said.
"The horticultural potential of the south Caucasus was bound to lead to the domestication of many new and different species, and innovative 'secondary" products were bound to emerge'.
A number of analyses - including archaeological, chemical, botanical, climatic and radiocarbon - indicate that the Eurasian grape known as Vitis vinifera was abundant at the two Neolithic sites. "As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies and society in the ancient Near East".
For the Neolithic Georgians, the drinking and offering of wine would have permeated almost every aspect of life from medical practice to special celebrations, Dr Batiuk added.
'The infinite range of flavours and aromas of today's 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again'. "The Eurasian gravepine that now accounts for 99.9% of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia".
"This is important because this is the way traditional wine is made in Georgia", he said.