Getting a head: Early wine-lovers also brewed own beer

Mediterranean France is famous as one of the world's big wine-growing regions but evidence has emerged that its sun-kissed coasts were also home to early beer-brewers.

French researchers delving into a fifth-century BC house at Roquepertuse, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Marseille have found carbonised remains of sprouted grains of barley, a telltale of the process to make malt for beer.

Two samples were found in a ceramic vessel and a pit that were presumably used to soak the barley and a third was located next to a hearth and oven, where the grain was probably roasted.

The find shows that the region known today as Provence had a wide range alcoholic beverages.

Beer "was probably of long-standing local tradition," whereas wine, at least in part, was encouraged by contact elsewhere in the Mediterranean, a region bustling with trade and colonisation, say the authors.

The study, headed by Laurent Bouby of the Centre for Bio-Archaeology and Ecology in Montpellier, is published in a European journal, Human Ecology.

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