Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes, and depending on your definition of “made from grapes” there are at least two independent inventions of it. The oldest known possible evidence for the use of grapes as part of a wine recipe with fermented rice and honey comes from China, about 9,000 years ago. Two thousand years later, the seeds of what became the European winemaking tradition began in western Asia.

Archaeological Evidence

Archaeological evidence of winemaking is a little difficult to come by because the presence of grape seeds, fruit skins, stems, and/or stalks at an archaeological site does not necessarily imply the production of wine. The two main methods of identifying winemaking accepted by scholars are the presence of domesticated stocks and evidence of grape processing.

The main mutation incurred during the domestication process of grapes was the advent of hermaphroditic flowers, meaning that domesticated forms of grapes are capable of self-pollination. Thus, vintners can pick traits they like and, as long as the vines are kept on the same hillside, they need not worry about cross-pollination changing next year’s grapes.

The discovery of parts of the plant outside its native territory is also accepted evidence of domestication. The wild ancestor of the European wild grape (Vitis vinifera sylvestris) is native to western Eurasia between the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas; thus, the presence of V. vinifera outside of its normal range is also considered evidence of domestication.