A team of Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum found pottery fragments of ceramic jars at two early Ceramic Neolithic sites (6000-4500 BC) called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, almost 50 kilometres south of the modern capital of Tbilisi.
They say wine improves with age, and if that's true, the discovery is truly sublime - and pushes back the world's earliest evidence of modern-style viticulture by up to 1,000 years, trumping earlier finds in the Zagros Mountains of Iran dating to around 5400-5000 BCE.
The cave was used from prehistory to Classical times as a site for religious rituals, with the wine possibly offered to underground deities, said Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida, who led that research. This finding makes it the oldest know evidence of wine-making in the world, at 6000 BC, in the Neolithic period.
The villages range from the Neolithic.
"The domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide. 6,000-5,800 BC", McGovern and colleagues wrote in their study.
The team then used a variety of analytical techniques to explore whether the soil or the inner surface of the vessels held signs of molecules of the correct mass, or with the right chemical signatures, to be evidence of wine. The study was published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The scientists there found traces of tartaric acid, which is a chemical signature for grapes and wine. Other evidence indicating the presence of wine included ancient grape pollen found at the excavated sites - but not in the topsoil - as well as grape starch particles, the remains of a fruit fly, and cells believed to be from the surface of grapevines on the inside of one of the fragments.
"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine exclusively for the production of wine", he said.
The eight shards, recovered from two sites about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Tbilisi, are roughly 8,000 years old.
Apparently, there was an abundance of Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera around the excavation sites, given the ideal climate for their growth much like wine producing area of France and Italy today.
Although this may sound like the chance of a lifetime to sample an 8,000-year-old vintage bottle, the "wine" only exists as dried samples that must be painstakingly collected from the surface of pottery jars that had been buried in the villages as part of the aging and fermentation process. "They have been saying for years that they have a very long history of winemaking and so we're really cementing that position".