The Hajji Firuz Tepe

The Hajji Firuz Tepe site in Iran is one of the oldest pieces of evidence of winemaking. Currently, it is an archaeological site in modern Iran. According to a Persian fable, Iranians invented winemaking.

The Fable Origin of Hajji Firuz Tepe

They say that King Jamshed was the fourth king of the Pishdadian dynasty. His lady suffered from migraines and lost the king’s favor. One day, feeling tired of her life, she decided to kill herself by consuming rotten grapes. Consequently, she went into a deep sleep but not an eternal one. When she woke up, she felt delighted in the most surprising way. Her headache had vanished.

She confessed to the King about the “poison” she ate to end her life. Subsequently, the King also tasted the “poison.” He liked it so much that he named it Zahre Kosh, which translates to “pleasant poison.” According to the legend, the queen regained the favor of the King and rid herself of the distressing headache.

The Excavation of Hajji Firuz

The earliest sign of winemaking in Hajji Firuz Tepe can be traced back to a Neolithic village. As part of a study, the University of Pennsylvania excavated the Hajji Firuz site between 1958 and 1968. At the site, the archaeologists discovered pottery jars filled with residue that showed the oldest evidence of winemaking.

After this earlier discovery, Patrick E. McGovern and archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania found evidence of winemaking in Hajji Firuz Tepe. It showed the presence of the winemaking process in Iran almost 2000 years earlier than all the previous studies. They discovered six jars in a mud-brick building. The residue in the jars was 7000 years old.

McGovern used scientific techniques like infrared technology (IR), liquid chromatography, and chemical tests to examine the contents of the jars. The examination found calcium salt from tartaric acid in the jars. The presence of grapes in tartaric acid was evident, which proved winemaking.

Archaeologists excavated 30 and 60-liter jars that indicated winemaking on a large scale (for household consumption and for selling). Moreover, they found the resin in the yellow residue of the jar, which might be a preservative. Hence, it proved the deliberate production of wine and not accidental fermentation. The use of clay stoppers for opening jars for the long-term storage of wine was another piece of evidence.

The Current State of Iran’s Wine Industry

The wines of Hajji Firuz Tepe were the oldest wines for many years. However, Patrick E. McGovern recently discovered evidence of Georgian wines that were even older than the wines of Hajji Firuz Tepe. Based on these findings, the National Academy of Sciences published an article on the discovery on November 13, 2017. Although McGovern also made this discovery, he was sad to break the previous record held by Hajji Firuz Tepe, as he had a special attachment to it.

Persians have a rich history of wine, and Iran used to be one of the most prominent wine producers. Unfortunately, the Islamic revolution of 1979 did immense damage to the wine industry in the country. Supreme leaders forbid wine, citing the Islamic prohibition of alcoholic beverages. In 2016, only 6% population in Iran consumed wine. In 2020, a person was found guilty and executed for drinking alcohol and driving without a license. See more resources here.

This Day in History

On April 1, 1979, Iran became the Islamic Republic by a national referendum. The Iranian wine history came to an end because of the Islamic government. Consequently, alcohol was banned, vineyards were ripped off, and wineries were destroyed.

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