- Title: Ancient factory exposes secrets of winemaking in the Holy Land
- Date: 11th October 2021
- Summary: YAVNE, ISRAEL (OCTOBER 11, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WORKERS IN EXCAVATION SITE (SOUNDBITE) (English) JON SELIGMAN, DIRECTOR OF THE EXCAVATION, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY, SAYING: "We do happen to know from ancient sources their description of the wine that came from these winepresses and we know that the wine over here which was known as Gazan or Ashkelonian wine - the names of the ports from where the wine was then exported - was a light white wine and it was agreeable to the taste. What that actually means and how we can then replicate that of course is anybody's guess." VARIOUS OF EXCAVATION SITE (SOUNDBITE) (English) JON SELIGMAN, DIRECTOR OF THE EXCAVATION, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY, SAYING: "The question that we have is what were the grape varieties that were drunk at that time, we don't know the answer. What we are trying to do is to get the information from the DNA from the pips themselves, from the morphology of the pips themselves. We find those pips in the excavation, they will be sent for scientific analysis, maybe we'll be able to identify either an existing or still existing grape variety which was used for the wine, or maybe we're talking about an extinct variety which was used for this wine which we just don't know exactly what it was, but we will learn maybe what its DNA was from the analysis." (SOUNDBITE) (English) JON SELIGMAN, DIRECTOR OF THE EXCAVATION, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY, SAYING: "There are many many winepresses that have been found during excavations, you could say hundreds of winepresses, so okay, so what's the big deal? The big deal is the size of this complex and also the fact that it's also clustered to create one sort of whole unit, that's never been found in this kind of quantity or this kind of clusterdness, if that's a word. So the fact the we have all of this together in one place is what is the new aspect of this excavation." MORE OF EXCAVATION SITE (SOUNDBITE) (English) HAGIT TORGE, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY, SAYING: "The wine was probably sweet. The taste of Europeans at that period was a sweet wine because a lot of times, in order to prevent from getting sick from the water, you'd pour wine into the water and then even babies and small children drank water with wine and the sweet taste of the wine, sweetens the water and it was a real hit during the Byzantine period." VARIOUS OF SITE (SOUNDBITE) (English) HAGIT TORGE, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY, SAYING: "The (Byzantine) emperor, Justin the Second, in his own wedding and coronation ordered Gaza wine for the feast. So we know it was really high quality and even the emperors demanded this wine for their own usage." VARIOUS OF TORGE EXPLAINING ABOUT FINDS VARIOUS OF ARTEFACTS WINE BOTTLE AGAINST BACKDROP OF ARTEFACTS VARIOUS OF SITE
- Embargoed: 25th October 2021 14:18
- Keywords: Israel archaeology history industry wine factory. Israel Antiquities Authority
- Location: YAVNE, ISRAEL
- City: YAVNE, ISRAEL
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Middle East,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA004EYPSLDZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A 1,500-year-old wine factory the size of a modern-day football field has been unearthed in Israel, showing how vintners met demand for high quality white wine popular throughout the ancient world.
Excavated in the city of Yavne, some 30km (18 miles) south of Tel Aviv, the cluster of five winepresses was once able to produce about 2 million liters (530,000 gallons) a year, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
The stone structures were so well preserved that it is still easy to visualize the winemaking process - from the platform where piles of grapes split open under their own weight, releasing "free-run" juice for the choicest wines, to the grape-stomping floor and collection basins.
Dozens of wine jugs, tall and thin, which were made in large kilns on site and able to hold up to 25 liters (6.6 gallons), were also found.
The dig team said these were known as "Gaza jars" after the nearby port from which they were shipped abroad. Such jars have been found across Europe, evidence that the wine was in high demand.
Wine was a common beverage in ancient times, served to children as well as adults, said Jon Seligman, one of the excavation directors. It was often used as a substitute for water, which was not always safe to drink, or as an additive to improve its taste and nutritional value.
"Having five huge winepresses right next to each other shows that there is industrial design over here," Seligman said, describing the complex, which authorities plan to open to the public. "The apex of the wine production which was associated with the Gazan wines."
And did the final product taste like wines of today?
It's impossible to know, Seligman said, while noting that ancient texts have described the beverage as a light white wine that was "agreeable to the taste."
(Production: Rami Amichai, Ari Rabinovitch, Rinat Harash)
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