Jan 14 2011

An international team of researchers have announced that they've
discovered the earliest known winery to date in a cave in the
mountains of Armenia. Among their discoveries is a grape press,
several fermentation jars, grape seeds, and even a cup or two for
enjoying the alcoholic beverage. The site they've discovered is about
6,000 years old, fully a thousand years older than the now second
earliest winery known to man.

The discovery shouldn't, perhaps, come as too much of a surprise.

Armenia, once part of the Persian Empire, is home to some of the most
popular and earliest known myths about the discovery of wine. The
most well-known of these stories concerns Jamshid, a legendary hero
and king.

In mythology Jamshid is the fourth great King of the world and is
credited with many great inventions ranging from weapons to perfumes.

As a King and as a high priest he had control over all the angels and
demons that walked the Earth. Myth, however, does not credit Jamshid
with the discovery of wine.

In the Persian legend Jamshid banished one of his ladies from his
harem. Distraught the women decided the only course left to her was to
commit suicide. Late that night she snuck into the King's warehouse
and sought out anything she could use to end her life. On one shelf
she found a jar marked "Poison" that was filled with spoiled grapes.

The harem girl swallowed the contents of the jar, the grapes having
fermented into an alcoholic drink, and soon found herself in a much
better mood. The girl brought her discovery to King Jamshid, who was
as taken with the drink as she was. He took the women back into the
harem and quickly decreed that all of the grapes grown in his kingdom
should be used to make wine.

The legend of Jamshid and his harem girl is, of course, just that-
a legend. But some scholars, including Patrick McGovern who is the
scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at
the University of Pennsylvania Museum, have long theorized that the
domestication of grapes for wine making purposes probably began in
Armenia before spreading across the world. Finding this early winery
may help prove, or disprove that theory, and could shed light on some
of the wine mythology of this part of the ancient world.

From: A. Papazian