Seeds of grapes used in the production of wine, found in archaeological sites across Europe, have been genetically tested and tell a story of continuity from ancient Rome until this very day. It seems some the wine drunk by Romans and that quaffed through the Middle Ages and on to modernity would have been produced with very similar grape varieties to those being used today. Such has been the continuity of use of grape vines through the ages.
The aim of the research was to understand the ancestry of winemaking in France, which has perplexed people for many years. Along with revealing the history behind grape varieties, it is also providing data that shows that the wine industry could be vulnerable because of climate change.
The study involved a large multidisciplinary team of researchers from a number of European countries, including Britain, Denmark, France, and Germany. It was funded by a Danish and a French research agency. The researchers sought to understand the genomes of ancient grapes. Their findings were published in the academic journal Nature Plants.
Comparing the old grape DNA with the new
The researchers used a large database containing information on the genomes of many modern grapes, used in winemaking. These were compared with the genetics of grape seeds found in a number of archaeological sites. Technology News reports that ‘researchers were able to test and compare 28 archaeological seeds from French sites dating back to the Iron Age, Roman era, and medieval period’. In the recent past DNA testing was used to investigate the ancestry of the grapes grown in modern vineyards. However, according to Decanter.com ‘there remain several blanks in the family jig