From the archives… Clues for the Future, When Our Present is Past

by Kermit Lynch

Nature Magazine reports that archaeologists recently found ancient pottery containing wine residue, which proves that our ancestors were enjoying wine as early as 5400 B.C.

In one report a scientist is quoted as saying of this discovery, “It’s possible this will be the earliest that will ever be found.” Wait a minute. Doesn’t it seem just as reasonable to say that this will not be the earliest ever found?

And what if wine predates mankind? It could. Imagine a wild vine with clusters of ripe grapes, and along comes Stegosaurus, who crushes them underfoot. The grape juice collects in a fissure in the rock, wild yeasts attack, and for a short time (before it turns to vinegar) wine exists.

“Earliest that will ever be found…” Bah, humbug. They call that science? I want my money back.

On a less grumpy note, one startling aspect of the discovery was the lack of a government health warning on the pottery containing the residue. After at least 7,400 years of wine drinking, it was our own relatively freely elected government that first required health warnings on a container of fermented grape juice. About time, right? Thank you, D.C. And to be objective, throughout history (excepting our current generation) everybody who consumed wine died, providing to some (like the scientist quoted above?) the plausibility of our government’s requirements.

However, it must be said in wine’s defense that despite drinking it, mankind itself is still alive, and probably enjoyed a giggle or two along the way.

Now, to return to one of my favorite themes, I would like to point out that what the archeologists found was residue. Sediment. In other words, if that wine had been filtered, we would not know that wine existed 7,400 years ago. We owe it to future generations to leave our own traces, our own little purple deposits, in order to ensure employment for future archeologists. Just one more reason for reasonable people everywhere to keep shopping at KLWM.

[From the August 1996 Newsletter]

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