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Wine in Georgia: Still a complete secret after 8000 years!

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Georgian Wine
Wine in Georgia

By: Tamar Tsikhelashvili

Wine in Georgia is getting more popular every day. This country invented wine, and while many people ask: “Who invented wine?”, not many realise that Georgia discovered wine almost 6000 years ago.

Today there is a wine boom in Georgia, with almost 961 wineries. Georgia has at least 430 indigenous grape varieties, but until recently, commercial production concentrated on only a select few.

Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region. Situated at the juncture of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the east by Azerbaijan.

Map of Georgia

Winemaking is another unique part of Georgian culture and the vital part to it’s economy. Georgia is widely known for producing wine and exporting it, that being basis of economical stability and international recognition.

Rich Georgian soil treats everything that is planted into it like gold, especially resulting in harvests of grapes filled with nutrients. Georgia’s climate and territorial conditions are perfect for wine production. There, extreme weather is very unusual; summers are sunny, while winters are mild and frost-free. The country is rich with natural springs that come from the Caucasian Mountains and flow into the valleys. This factor combined with the unique technique of winemaking, produces liquid gold, known as Georgian wine.

Talking to one of Georgia’s top wine companies: Schuchmann Wines

Every single grape is handpicked and carried into the factories and chateaus. Old technique of wine pouring, similar with other cultures, is smashing the grapes by foot, in special wood chambers, which are made of wood. The produced juice, grape skin and pips are later poured into Qvevri, magnificent clay amphorae which are laid in the ground, covered and sealed with stone and let sit to age and ferment from five to six months.

Although many companies have mixed up Old Georgian winemaking techniques with European modern ones, this still makes the wine produced in the region one of a kind.

The main region where wine is produced in Georgia, is Kakheti. Filled with beautiful Valleys, especially Alazani Valley, surrounded with Caucasus mountains, filled with ethereal forests, the wine region is one of it’s kind. Georgia mainly holds harvests, but a few companies also offer their costumers ice-wine, which is mainly harvested in Late January and February.

Alzani Valley

Now let’s get to the point, why is Georgian wine and winemaking unique itself? “Cradle of wine” as archaeologists have traced the world’s first known wine creation back to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000BC. These early Georgians discovered grape juice could be turned into wine by burying it underground for the winter.

Not only the 8000 years of winemaking but lets also mention the technique, the tradition of Qvevri wine-making defines the lifestyle of local communities and forms an inseparable part of their cultural identity and inheritance, with wine and vines frequently evoked in Georgian traditions and songs.

Wine is linked to nearly every aspect of Georgian history and culture. When a baby comes into the family we bless his life by wine. When he starts talking he has permission to taste wine. When he passes away he will be blessed with wine; all his life, wine is surrounding him.

Some even say that wine was invented in Georgia. And indeed, there is evidence suggesting this may be true. In 2017, scientists exploring a Neolithic village 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Tbilisi found an 8,000-year-old grape seed in a clay pot, making it the world’s oldest evidence of winemaking.

The process is so unique that in 2013, the qvevri wine-making tradition was placed on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list for its significance and importance in the country’s history and culture.

Towering over Tbilisi is the 20-meter-tall “Kartlis Deda” (Mother of Georgia) statue. In one hand, she holds a cup of wine, an offering to friends. Hospitality is a sacred concept in Georgia; in the past in the Kakheti region, strangers in search of water would be greeted with a jug of white wine to quench their thirst. But in her other hand, she holds a sword, a warning to enemies.

Kartlis Deda

Another important aspect of Georgian winemaking is today’s market. In 2019, Georgia exported nearly 94 million bottles of wine to 53 countries which is 9% more as compared to 2018’s data and is the record-breaking figure in the history of independent Georgia. The value of exported wine reached USD 240 million which is 17% more as compared to the same figure of 2018.

Wine production and export in Georgia is a vital factor of today’s economy in Georgia. Although Georgian wine is highly recognized, the success for Georgian winemakers is still yet to come.

One of the popular wine companies in Georgia is Schuchmann Wines Georgia. Their resort, along with a wine village, is located in Kakheti, Kisiskhevi village, a part of the city Telavi. The chateau is 2 hours away from the capital, Tbilisi. Wide varieties of tours and spa packages, along with a high end restaurant and a wine factory are offered, overlooking the Alazani valley and the Caucasus mountains.

Schuchmann Wines

As a Georgian myself, I highly recommend tourists and the wine enthusiasts that are reading this article, to visit Georgia, especially the wine region, to connect with the culture where it all started from. Georgians embrace their wine, for them it has a deep meaning, the wine flows through their veins.

Tamar Tsikhelashvili, is the Global Wine Editor for TheFutureOfPR.com. A wine enthusiast, she has always been interested in winemaking. She can be reached at tamuska.tsikhellashvili@gmail.com

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