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Archeologists toast world's oldest wine press

4,000 BC – a vintage year for dry reds

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Archeologists rooting about in southern Armenia have unearthed what appears to be the world's oldest wine press, Reuters reports.

The ancient booze-making facility was discovered in a cave complex in the Little Caucasus Mountains, close to the country's southern border with Turkey.

The modest set-up comprises "a shallow clay basin about three feet (one meter) in diameter, surrounded by grape seeds and dried-out grape vines".

Carbon dating on one desiccated grape vine showed it had grown around 4,000 BC, meaning the press was "1,000 years older than any other wine-making facility discovered".

Gregory Areshian of the University of California, who helped lead the study, declared: "This is the world's oldest known installation to make wine."

The archaeologists suggest the press was possibly dedicated to providing a tipple to mourners at a caveside cemetery.

Areshian explained: "This was a relatively small installation related to the ritual inside the cave. For daily consumption they would have had much larger wine presses in the regular settlement."

As to just what mourners might have enjoyed, "biochemical techniques" identified a "dry red vintage". The same area continues to this day to produce "rich red" merlots and cabernet sauvignons, Areshian noted.

The team's findings can be found in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Reuters has more, and snaps of the press, here. ®

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