The people of ancient Canaan were far more bibulous than anyone has previously suspected. Boffins have dug up 3,700-year-old wine jugs from an ancient cellar in a large Canaanite city called Tel Kabri, which is not far from the vineyards of modern Israel.
The wine was flavoured with honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and even mysterious "psychotropic resins", which might explain why people in the biblical era spent so much time spouting prophesies and wearing technicolor dreamcoats.
The wine cellar is the oldest ever found in the near east and contained 40 jars of potent, sweet wine. Some fifty litres were stored in the basement, which was found beneath an ancient palace.
Sadly, the biblical booze leaked out a long time ago and all that's left were traces of its ingredient and tell tale signs of tartaric and syringic acid, which are both key constituents of wine. The recipe is similar to "medicinal" wines enjoyed in Europe two millennia ago, although that familar old excuse for drinking is probably as old as civilisation itself.
"This is a hugely significant discovery. It's a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size," said Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University.
The consistency of the recipe impressed the boffins, for the wine was no Lambrini. It is likely that this was a top-end tipple, intended for consumption by people at the very apex of society.
"This wasn't moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements," said Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, who was also on the dig.
"This wine's recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar."
The wine cellar was found near a banqueting hall where local leaders may have enjoyed a glass or five with their chums or visitors from foreign lands.
At the end of the dig, the team discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar. They plan to explore these in 2015.
In another truly-vintage wine find of recent times, back in 2010 Finnish divers cracked open a bottle of champagne and a few beers they found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The 200 year old booze, which was the oldest ever found, tasted "fresh" with notes of "yeast, honey and ... a hint of manure". ®