The world's first known winery has been discovered in a cave in a mountainous area of Armenia.
A 6,000-year-old stone vat in which they press the grapes, jars for fermentation and drinking bowls in the cave system in the south-east of the Caucasus country, was found by a group of archaeologists.
The primitive winery, found near the Armenian village of Areni, is surrounded by ancient graves, leading experts to wonder that the red wine was produced for use in ritualistic funeral ceremonies and as an offering to the dead.
Archaeologists consider that the Copper Age inhabitants of the area crushed wine grapes with their feet in a three-foot wide clay basin.
The grape juice was then channeled into a two foot deep stone vat, where it fermented before being exhausted into jars.
The team found the remnants of pressed grape skins as well as grape seeds, which were from the same type of grapes – Vitis vinifera that are still used to make wine today.
It is the world's earliest example of wine production, according to Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles, the co-director of the project.
"This is the earliest, most consistent evidence of wine production," he said.
"For the first time, we have a entire archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years."
The find was announced on Tuesday by the National Geographic Society, which partially sponsored the excavation. It was discovered in the same cave complex where archaeologists last year unearthed the world's oldest leather shoe – a 5,500 year-old moccasin.
Patrick McGovern, an expert on ancient winemaking techniques and a bimolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, described the find as "significant and unique."
The discovery appears to substantiate the theory that present-day Armenia, Georgia and nearby countries were the birthplace of viticulture.