Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago

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In wine there is truth, in vino veritas, as the ancient Romans put it. And the truth is that people first cultivated grapes for vino about 8,000 years ago, finds a genetics study.

In the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Sean Myles of Cornell, looked at "1,000 samples of the domesticated grape, Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera, and its wild relative, V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris." Comparing the gene maps across the grapes, the team concludes that humanity has only begun to explore the genetic diversity of the humble grape.

Earlier this week, a UCLA team reported archaeological evidence from an Armenian cave of the earliest known wine press, dating to 6,000 years ago.

The new analysis suggests that people have been conservative in crossing varieties, after the earliest domestication of wild grapes. The researchers call for genetically-guided cross-fertilization of grape varieties for increased hardiness. The lack of diversity in domestic grapes left wine-makers ripe for the attack of phylloxera root louse pests over a century ago that wiped out vineyards across France and Italy, impoverishing many families....

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