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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DNA research: wine roots found in Turkey

27.11.2012 (Hvino News). While Georgia, Armenia and Iran all played a role in ancient winemaking, preliminary evidence seems to place the very first domestication of the wild Eurasian grape Vitis vinifera in southeastern Anatolia (Turkey) sometime between 5,000 and 8,500 BC.

These research findings were presented at EWBC wine conference in Izmir this month, and published by AFP today.

Today Turkey is home to archaeological sites as well as vineyards of ancient grape varieties like Bogazkere and Okuzgozu, which drew the curiosity of the Swiss botanist and grape DNA researcher Jose Vouillamoz, for the clues they may offer to the origin of European wine.

Together with the biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, Vouillamoz has spent nearly a decade studying the world's cultivated and wild vines.

"We wanted to collect samples from wild and cultivated grape vines from the Near East -- that means southeastern Anatolia, Armenia and Georgia -- to see in which place the wild grape was, genetically speaking, linked the closest to the cultivated variety."

"It turned out to be southeastern Anatolia," the Asian part of modern Turkey, said Vouillamoz, speaking at the EWBC conference in Izmir. "We propose the hypothesis that it is most likely the first place of grape vine domestication."

McGovern's lab at the University of Pennsylvania Museum also provided archaeological evidence of wine's Anatolian roots after analysing residues of liquid recovered from vessels thousands of years old.

Author of "Uncorking the Past" and "Ancient Wine", McGovern used a sensitive chemical technique to look for significant amounts of tartaric acid -- for which grapes are the only source in the Middle East.

Southeast Anatolia is part of the Fertile Crescent, the name given to a vast area stretching through modern-day Iraq and Iran to the Nile Valley in the south, widely seen as the birthplace of the eight so-called "founder" crops -- from chickpea to barley -- that are the world's first known domesticated plants.

Evidence found by the research duo suggests that for wine too, hundreds of today's grapes find their roots in "founder" varieties descended from the wild grapes of the region.

© Hvino News

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