A German professor from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz said the earliest winemaking traces dating back to 9,000 years ago are found in central China.
This “Neolithic cocktail” is discovered in the grave of a shaman, who is buried with a ceramic jug in Jiahu, Henan, about 7000 BC that contains traces of winemaking.
It is currently thought to be the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, according to Peter Kupfer of Mainz University, who has been studying China for four decades and has investigated all aspects of the alcohol culture of the Middle Kingdom.
Laboratory tests revealed the pottery jars discovered in the archaeological sites revealed traces of a mixed fermented drink made from a concoction of rice, honey, and either grapes or Hawthorne fruit.
Previously it is believed viticulture itself began only a little later, about 8,000 years ago in Georgia.
Although still unproven, Kupfer believes that there were probably links between the most ancient winemaking sites – between Georgia 8,000 years ago and Jiahu in central China some 9,000 years ago.
“Alcohol and, in particular, wine made using grapes has been a fundamentally important part of cultural life in Eurasia for thousands of years. And China has played a key role in its history,” said Kupfer.
In his view, the emergence of China as one of the world’s leading wine-producing and wine-consuming countries is best seen against this background.
In his latest book on China’s wine history titled Amber Shine and Black Dragon Pearls: The History of Chinese Wine Culture, he says winemaking and drinking culture is ingrained in China’s history.
“Without exception, the rise of all advanced Eurasian civilizations was intimately linked to the development of a wine and alcohol culture that was initially linked to magic and later played a role in social and religious rituals,” explains Kupfer,
“The way the Chinese toast each other has remained unchanged for 3,000 years, as evidenced by ancient written precepts on the subject of hospitality,” adds Kupfer.
He says the country has been home to the world’s richest and most diverse range of species of the Vitis genus. During glacial periods, vines found a refuge in southern China, which is now home to over 40 Vitis species, 30 of which are indigenous.
In late 19th century Chinese viticulture started to realign itself with its Western counterparts with imports of vines and technologies, largely thanks to Changyu Pioneers, today the country’s biggest winery.