The secrets of winemaking in the Holy Land revealed by an ancient factory.
A 1,500-year-old wine factory the size of a modern-day football field has been discovered in Israel, demonstrating how vintners met the ancient world’s demand for high-quality white wine.
Excavated in Yavne, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Tel Aviv, the cluster of five winepresses was once capable of producing about 2 million litres (530,000 gallons) per year, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The stone structures have been so well preserved that it is still possible to imagine the winemaking process, from the platform where piles of grapes split open under their own weight, releasing “free-run” juice for the best wines, to the grape-stomping floor and collection basins.
Dozens of tall and thin wine jugs, made in large on-site kilns and capable of holding up to 25 litres (6.6 gallons), were also discovered.
According to the dig team, these were known as “Gaza jars” after the nearby port from which they were shipped overseas. Such jars have been discovered all over Europe, indicating that the wine was in high demand.
According to Jon Seligman, one of the excavation directors, wine was a common beverage in ancient times, served to both children and adults. It was frequently used as a replacement for water, which was not always safe to drink, or as an additive to improve the taste and nutritional value of water.
“Having five huge winepresses right next to each other shows that there is industrial design over here,” Seligman said, describing the complex, which officials intend to open to the public. “The pinnacle of wine production associated with Gazan wines.”
And did the finished product taste like modern wines?
It’s impossible to say, according to Seligman, who notes that ancient texts described the beverage as a light white wine that was “agreeable to the taste.”
Image credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias
Reuters contributed to this article.Read on Reuters