Hundreds, if not thousands, of years of experimentation in vine cultivation and winemaking technology were needed to achieve the level of vinous sophistication we enjoy today. However, everything in life must have an origin. Whilst wine drinkers revel in the fruits of several millennia of labour, there is also an active scientific quest underway to discover the origins of viticulture; specifically, the DNA of the first ever domesticated vine, a mystery that remains unsolved. The study of evidence from archaeology, genetics, ancient literary studies, paleo-botany and linguistics suggests the answer lies somewhere in the Neolithic era.
The name for this quest is ‘The Noah Hypothesis’. An apt moniker, since it is famously written that the biblical patriarch’s first goal after the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat was to plant a vineyard, making him the world’s first known example of a ‘vigneron’. The rest of the story focuses rather more on Noah’s moral character than his viticultural expertise, but does end with his youngest son, Ham, and all his descendants condemned to perpetual servitude because he saw his father naked and inebriated in his tent. Noah over-enjoying the fruits of his labour no doubt!
In 2007, the Areni-1 cave was discovered in Armenia. Areni-1 is home to what is officially the world’s oldest known winery, dating back some 6000 years (around the start of the Neolithic era). The discovery of such a site just 80 km east of the centre of Mount Ararat, which sits on the eastern border of modern-day Turkey, only gives support to Noah’s claim to the fatherhood of wine. As yet, scientists still don’t have a definitive answer – so, without official facts, we’ll have to go on the evidence we have to hand and credit Noah as being the ‘world’s first vigneron’, the first and greatest domesticator of vines, until science tells us otherwise.
Jon Higgs, Head of Private Client Sales
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