Recently discovered ruins of a 3,700 year old palace in Northern Israel have given the world a view into the life of an ancient wine collector. Who was the mysterious Canaanite owner of the private and “palatial” Bronze Age wine cellar? While that question may never be answered, the discovery and analysis of the cellar itself will provide plenty of interesting data on ancient wine. The cellar, a 15-by-25 foot storage room, contained 40 3-foot tall jars capable of holding up to 500 gallons of wine, a capacity equal 3,000 bottles.
All of the jars were found broken and covered in debris as a result of what researchers are calling a “violent event,” such as an earthquake. Analysis of the residue on the broken jar fragments showed remnants of tartaric and syringic acids as well as other substances known to be used in the making of “medicinal wine,” once popular in ancient Egypt and still available in ancient wine-making strongholds such as Greece, producer of the infamous resinated Retsina wines. Additionally, comparative research between the 40 jars shows that additives such as honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resin were blended with red and white wines in a formulaic and consistent way, indicating that recipes were used and executed with precision, producing the large amounts of homogeneous wine.
The existence of such a collection of wine, “largely unmatched in age and size,” indicates the power and wealth of the owner. The consistent quality of the wine indicates a professional wine-making touch and, again, the significant financial freedom of the owner. In a time when such wealth was truly unique and most wine was, by modern standards, unhygienic and unpalatable, guests of the mystery collector were treated to what may have been the DRC or Lafite of the era.