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A wonderful world of Georgian wine traditions

Friday, May 21
Many people enjoy drinking wine without having any idea about its origin and history, which in fact has individually strong and deep philosophy in every corner of the world. Some people consider Greece to be the birthplace of wine, while some believe it is Rome, but according to the basis of scientific and archaeological research neither is true. The basic written source "Oxford Companion to Wine" (Jancis Robinson, 1994) declares that the history of the wine tradition finds its roots in the fertile valleys of South Caucasus - in the country of Georgia.

Wine culture was given life together with the birth of Georgia. Grape seeds dated back to 7-6 thousand years B.C. and the 3000 year-old huge clay jugs discovered during excavations from ancient settlements prove this assumption. Some even consider that a generic world "wine" stems from the Georgian word "ghvino". Many famous poets, writers and travelers describe in their masterpieces Georgia as the land of the antique traditions of vine-growing and wine making.

The knowledge and skills of wine-making in Georgia were widely acknowledged in the ancient world. Many outstanding figures of antiquity, such as Apollo of Rhodes, Strabon and Procopious of Caesaria mentioned Transcaucasus and specifically the territory of Georgia in their works as the land of the first known cultured grape varieties. It was also from here that the wine and traditional method of wine-making in Kvevri (pitchers) were spread further to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and the rest of the world. Vessels similar to Kvevri were found in the Roman Empire, where they were called "Dolium", in Greece "Pithos" and in Spain "Tinaja".

Thousands years of knowledge, tradition and excellence have contributed to the development of the unique and exciting grape varietals from which Georgian wines are made. 500 sorts of vine, of 4000 registered throughout the world, are Georgian. Famous sorts of Georgian wines are Rkatsiteli, Manavi, Napareuli, Tibaani, Tsinandali, Vazisubani, Mukuzani, Saperavi, Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara, Ojaleshi, etc.

The ancient people of South Caucasus discovered the mysterious transformation of wild grape juice into wine by leaving it in clay vessels called Kvevri, buried in the ground. This knowledge was then slightly developed and refined over the centuries. The production and consumption phases have been developed over thousands of years to the present time, and Kvevri still maintain the same importance in wine-making as ever before in South Caucasus. Many Georgian families constantly and strongly follow their rich culture of making wine. They own special places called Marani on the cellar floor beneath their houses, where they ferment their own wine in the cool earth with different sizes of buried kvevries.

Kvevries are believed to be the best earthenware artefacts discovered by Georgian archaeologists. In fact, the Georgian craft of pottery is millennia old. Ancient artefacts reflect and clearly define the high skills of Georgian craftsmen in whose hands water, clay and fire turned into the fusion of the giant vessels of exceptional beauty reflecting the all-time history of this ancient culture.

Today, wine once again holds a central place in every Georgians' life, and generally the whole Georgian culture. One can find many farmers in different wine-making regions of Georgia producing their own wine and enjoying particular pleasure in seeing guests tasting it. This shows the significance of these traditions, even in the modern world and it makes our work, to preserve the art of making Kvevries as part of the traditional Georgian method of wine-making, so important.