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Drinking the Same Stuff as the Ancients

Some ancient and modern grapevines have hardly changed in the interceding years, the Guardian reports.

As grapevines are often grown from cuttings of established plants, researchers have suspected that some grape varieties grown today could be similar to those of yesteryear, it adds. A team of European researchers generated genome-wide sequencing data from 28 archaeological grape seeds from the Iron Age, Roman era, and medieval period, which they then compared to modern domesticated and wild accessions.

As they report in Nature Plants this week, the researchers found those archeological samples to be highly similar to ones used to make wine today. In particular, they report that one seed from Orleans, France, that dates to between 1050 AD and 1200 AD was genetically identical to vines that today grow savagnin blanc grapes, suggesting these vines have been used in winemaking for more than 900 years.

"When we imagined people 1,000 years ago drinking wine ... the question was ... how different was the stuff in that bottle? Now we've got the answer," senior author Nathan Wales from the University of York tells NPR. "It's incredibly likely that someone 1,000 years ago was drinking something that's pretty much genetically identical to what we drink today."