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Late Antiquity Grapevine Lineage Reveals Past Cultivation, Trading Patterns

A team from Tel Aviv University and other international centers look back at ancient legacy grapevine varieties from desert sites in southern Israel in an effort to find winemaking cultivars that are adapted to dry, hot environments, rather than temperate climate-adapted European cultivars typically used in winemaking. As they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers relied on targeted-enrichment to do genome-wide sequencing on 16 ancient grapevine pips from a handful of archeological sites in the Negev Highlands, focusing on sequences from five pips for their analyses. Along with evidence of long-term grape cultivation in the region, they saw signs of genetic diversity and genetic ties to cultivars in other parts of the world, while uncovering the oldest white grape representative found so far. Together, the results "shed light on historical Byzantine trading networks and on the genetic contribution of Levantine varieties to the classic Aegean landscape," the authors write, adding that "modern-day close relatives of the archeological grapes may now provide an exceptional platform for future studies on grapevine resilience to aridity."