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France's wine has Italian origins dating to 500 BC


Researchers have found that the origins of French wine may owe much to Italy after the discovery of Etruscan amphoras at the iron age site of Lattara in southern France.


Thierry Zoccolan

Artifacts found in the French Iron Age site of Lattara may point to the early origins of French wine, say researchers.

It is believed that wine vessels — amphoras — and a limestone press found at the site south of Montpellier were from around 500 BC.

A chemical analysis showed that the vessels contained wine, as well as herbs and spices possibly to give the wine a medicinal quality.

The wine, they believe, was distributed from the port of Massalia, the ancient Greek word for Marseilles, France's ancient Mediterranean port town.

In a discovery that will make Italian hearts swell, the pieces were said to have been brought by Etruscan voyagers.

Etruscans were an early civilization in central Italy that were eventually subdued by their powerful neighbors, the Romans.

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That means that France now has Italy to thank for their wine.

"France's rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented," said study author Patrick McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

"What we haven't had is clear chemical evidence, combined with botanical and archaeological data, showing how wine was introduced into France and initiated a native industry."

The BBC pointed out that the earliest known wine-making regions were in Iran, Georgia, and Armenia about 8,000 years ago. From there the traditions spread to Europe.

The findings were described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.