French Wine Had Italian Origins

Scientific American

Click here to listen to this podcast

France considers itself the world center of wine. But there may be some red faces in Burgundy today—because a study provides more evidence that the techniques for turning grapes into a glass of wine may have come over from what today is Italy. The research is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Patrick E. McGovern, Beginning of viniculture in France]

Archaeologists have found containers, called amphoras, at sites along the French coast. The 2,500-year-old vessels had characteristics of wine bottles used by the Etruscans in what’s now Italy. But did these amphoras actually contain wine?

Researchers looked at 13 Etruscan amphoras that had been excavated whole in the French coastal town of Lattara, an ancient import-export center. They also examined a limestone platform that looked to have been a wine or olive press.

Based on chemical analyses, it’s likely that the amphoras contained wine. And the press did not start being used on grapes until decades after the amphoras arrived. These artifacts imply that the Gallic locals first had their wine shipped in and later began the development of their own wine-making techniques—probably using vines also transplanted into the area. Looks like French wine, like Napoleon, is really an Italian import.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs.

Visit for the latest in science, health and technology news.

© 2013 All rights reserved.

View Comments (0)