Wine merchants' heritage may have Bronze Age roots

Modern-day wine merchants sell drinks from all over the world, including wine and champagne, but often also boutique beers and other specialities.

Now it seems there may be a 3,500-year-old heritage to many of those products, as a University of Manchester team has successfully excavated a Bronze Age microbrewery.

Led by Dr Lindy Crewe, the excavation team have uncovered a domed kiln, made of mud plaster and measuring 2m x 2m.

They believe it was used for drying malt, in order to make beer - with yeast potentially produced from grapes, providing a link to the wines stocked by modern-day wine merchants too.

Dr Crewe says: "Beer was commonly drunk because it is more nutritious than bread, and less likely to contain harmful pathogens than drinking water."

But the Bronze Age beer also had other uses, similar to its modern-day celebratory applications, and alcohol-fuelled feasts were often held to mark the end of major projects.

While wine and champagne have taken over the chief celebratory role in the present day, it's good to see archaeologists uncover evidence of how all of these beverages have played their part in holding communities together for millennia.