Humans have been cultivating wine grapes for centuries longer than scientists previously believed.
A new study reveals that Vitis vinifera was first domesticated around 11,000 years ago, according to a March 2 journal article in Science. The new research, based on genetics data of over 3,500 grape types, suggests that grapevines were first domesticated around 3,000 years prior than previously believed. Previous archaeological research suggested that Vitis vinifera was first cultivated in the Transcaucasian region around 6,000— to 8,000 years ago, according to the National Library of Medicine.
The study conducted by an international group of researchers also reveals surprising information about the origins of grape domestication. The first cultivated grapevines were traced back to Western Asia and the Caucasus some 11,000 years ago.
Researchers analyzed genetic data from 3,525 domesticated and wild grape varieties to pinpoint the origin of table and wine grapes. It’s believed that the grapevines cultivated in Western Asia traveled to Europe, sparking agricultural pursuits in the area. The data indicates that humans dispersed grapevines along migratory routes into Europe and subsequently created unique grapevines growing both domestically and in the wild.
The study also reveals specific genetic traits found in those early grapevines.
“Analyses of domestication traits also reveal new insights into selection for berry palatability, hermaphroditism, muscat flavor, and berry skin color. These data demonstrate the role of the grapevines in the early inception of agriculture across Eurasia,” the study’s abstract states.