The history of Georgian Wine Making

History

    Georgia has an 8,000 year history of continuous wine making tradition, which is evidenced numerous archaeological discoveries. Georgians have shared the love for the grape the time immemorial and remains loyal to it through to modernity. Numerous displays related to wine making practices dating to millennia have been kept in Georgian museums.

    Archaeologists discovered several grape pips of ancient millennia in Kvemo Kartli, to the south of Tbilisi, in the Marneuli Valley, in the ruins of the Dangreuli Gora. In accordance with morphological and ampelographic features, they then assigned the pips to a cultivated variety of grapevine, Vitis Vinifera Sativa.

    The kvevri vessels dating the Neolithic era were discovered during different archaeological excavations, as were cultural vine fossil seeds, tartaric acid sediment on the fragments of earthenware vessels for wine and resin the domesticated grapevine. The diversity of the wild and indigenous grape varieties, the unique wine vessel (the kvevri) and the oldest technologies of making wine by kvevri all confirm that Georgia is truly an ancient wine making country.

Development

    Georgians have been engaged in viticulture and wine making for almost eighty centuries. During this period, a rich culture of grapevine and wine developed using a diversity of grape varieties. This was also the period during which the domestication of wild grapes was realized, systems of vineyard plantation and care were elaborated, wine vessels were improved and the establishment of the culture of Kvevri occurred. Kakhetian and Imeretian technologies of wine making were also established in this period.

    The 19th century is considered one of the most important periods in the history of Georgian wine. During this period, Georgian poet and public man Aleksandre Chavchavadze made great efforts to get Georgian wine closer to European wine. Since the 1830s, some places of origin wines, which are still very popular today, have been made on Chavchavadze’s estate. In the beginning of the 1890s, Tsinandali, Mukuzani, Napareuli and Teliani wines were produced on regular basis. In the same period, in the village of Ruispiri, a well-known German wine expert Lenz created a wine cellar Georgian and foreign sorts were cultivated. Viticulture was also developed in Tbilisi after the German colonists settled in the city suburbs and imported foreign sorts into the country.

    In the 1870s, Georgian wine Ivan Mukhran–Batoni’s cellar was exported Georgia. In the mid-19th century, scientific studies of Georgian grapevine varieties began. In the 1870s, characteristics of the Georgian grape varieties appeared for the first time in descriptions published in Paris and London.
In the 19th century, Georgia participated in multiple wine exhibitions. At that time Europe became acquainted with Georgian wines and brands. In the Paris exhibition of 1900, Georgian wine making already held a respectable place in European culture, as reported by the newspapers of that time. Georgia’s success at this time was also supported by pictures of the wine cellar “Kakhetian Princely Viniyards,” manuscripts describing rather large collections of grape clusters (Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Tavkveri, Tita, etc), as well as wine samples in bottles, small casks (tikebi), etc. During this period, Georgian wine paved the road to international arena and has since reached great success.

    Wine is stirred with a traditional tool – a long stick with thorn ending. Similar tools serve to monitor the quality of the liquor. The most interesting traditional tool, made from a pumpkin, is a special gourd with which a wine can be scooped. After around 2 months, the kvevri can be hermetically closed by sealing. After next 3 to 6 months the contents of the vessels undergo clarification, so that the pulp, known as chacha in Georgian, settles to the bottom.

    After kvevri is opened, a high quality wine is at the very surface, a table wine is in the middle, and from a fermented must, which settles to the bottom,Georgians produce a famous Georgian moonshine – chacha vodka. What I consider as the best in Georgian wine-making is the respect Georgians pay to the grapes. Whatever the soil gives can be used in the production of wines so as you can see alcohol can be made of anything. In Georgia, alcohol is like a MEDICINE.

    Kvevri wine is only a dry wine because it is impossible to break the process of fermentation because it has to be completed. In a nutshell, the whole sugar, from the sweetest Georgian grapes, has to become alcohol. This makes the traditionally produced wines the wines with larger alcohol content when compared to European wines: red wines by 1% and white wines by 0.5%. You can tell Kvevri wine apart from other wines because it is much more expensive and there is often a picture of Kvevri on the label, or at least it is mentioned in the description given on the label. Currently, the vast majority of local winemakers make no more than 10% of their wines in traditional Kvevri method.

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