History of Georgian Wine
Georgia is rightly called "The cradle of wine", reaffirmed by UNESCO in December 2013, when the oldest Georgian method of winemaking in Qvevriwas inscribed in the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of the humanity. Several years ago archeologists have foundgrape pips that date to VI millennium BC in the ruins of the Dangreuli Gora, Marneuli Valley, Kvemo Kartli region, south of Tbilisi.According to the morphological and ampelographic features, the pips belong to the Vitis Vinifera Sativavariety of vine.
From this time on, the culture of viticulture and winemaking did not discontinue in Georgia. It has been constantly evolving,butstill managing to maintain its ancient nature and traditions. That is why Georgia is considered to be the country of 8000 harvests; the country where wine was made in the pre-Qvevri vessels as early as in Neolithic period.
Georgia boasts more than 500 varieties of indigenous grapes, nearly one-sixth of the world’s grape varieties, including endangered varieties found nowhere else on Earth.
Winemakers employ several winemaking techniquesto create Georgian wine.Traditional Georgian method of fermenting wine in clay qvevri,European technology andhybrid approach that incorporates elements of each.
It must be mentioned that the word winehas the same origin in all European languages. As the linguists suggest, it comes from the Georgian word "ghvino". Vinum, Wine, Vin, Wein, Вино, etc.
Traditional Georgian winemaking is hardly imaginable without Qvevri, a phenomenal vessel which originated in the remote past of Georgian history. This winemaking method, which has started 8000 years ago, is one of the country’s cultural achievements.
Qvevri technological process - Grapes are pressed and poured together with grape marc in Qvevri, which is buried in the ground. This guarantees an optimal temperature for the aging and storage of wine. The mixture fills the vessel to 80%. As fermentation progresses, the mixture is stirred 4-5 times a day. When fermentation is finished, the Qvevri is filled with the identical mixture and sealed, then left to age for 5-6 month. As a result, a perfect product – a natural wine that is unrivaled in the world of winemaking is born.
Wine made in Qvevri obtains following characteristics:
- Wine turns into amber color
- Becomes rich with tannins
In different regions of the country, it is used differently, however, the principle is the same. Wine undergoes both the fermentation and maturation in Qvevri.
Idiosyncrasy and diversity are the main features of the wine regions of Georgia. All of them differ from each other in soils and climate. While one region has coastal subtropical climate, the other tends to have dry, continental type of weather. There are both humus-carbonate soils and forest and meadow black or brown lands in wine regions, along with alluvial soils, river sands, rocky and loamy soils, and those with high concentration of lime.
There are 10 major viticulture and winemaking regions in Georgia, which are distinguished by local varieties, methods and oenological and gastronomic traditions. Georgia has up to 530 wine varieties. This allows all its regions to have their own varieties and their different wines.
Kakheti is undoubtedly the country's most important wine region, with the largest number of Protected Designations of Origin (14). Kakheti has the largest share of wines made in Georgia. Kakhetian Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Kisi, Khikhvi, Kakhuri Mtsvivani and other varieties are truly one of the best specimens of our country's wine culture. Despite the fact that the Qvevri wine is made everywhere in Georgia, the Kakhetian Qvevri amber wine plays a completely different role, in terms of methodology and taste.
Kakhetian Protected Designations of Origin: Tsinandali, Mukuzani, Kindzmarauli, Akhasheni, Kvareli, Napareuli, Manavi, Gurjaani, Vazisubani, Teliani, Kardanakhi, Tibaani, Kakheti, Kotekhi.
Imereti is primarily known for white wines. The Imeretian Tsitska, Tsolikouri and Krakhuna became widely known abroad, redrawing the future of Georgian white wines. Wine in Imereti is made in both classic way and in Qvevri. The Imeretian variety of Tsitska is considered to be the best Georgian variety for making sparkling wine. Kvishkhuri (Goruli Mtskvane) grown in Sachkhere, Imereti, deserves a special mention, too. Excellent red wines in Imereti are made from Otskhanuri Sapere, Dzelshavi and Aladasturi. Sviri is only one Protected Designation of Origin of Imereti.
Kartli can be surely called the region for white wines. Chinuri and Goruli Mtsvane are the classics of the Kartli wines. The Kartli winemakers grow these two to make wine in both classic way and in Qvevri. Most importantly, these two varieties are best for making sparkling wines. The place (Shida Kartli and Kvemo Kartli) is also famous for its red varieties - Tavkveri and Shavkapito. Ateni only one Protected Designation of Origin of Kartli.
Racha joins the large family of Georgian varieties with its Alexandrouli and Mujuretuli. These two are used for making Khvanchkara, the Racha Protected Designation of Origin wine. Rachuli (Tsulukidze) Tetra and Tsolikouri top the white wine list.
Lechkhumi is famous for Tsolikouri and Usakhlelouri. Tsolikouri makes excellent Tvishi, the Lechkhumi Protected Designation of Origin wine, while Usakhelouri has long established itself as the most valuable and rare wine of our country. Orbeluri Ojaleshi deserves a special mention, too, grown in the village of Orbeli.
Guria and Chkhaveri are inseparable. This variety symbolizes the region. The amber and rosé wines made from it bring the Georgian viticulture and winemaking to a whole new level.
Samegrelo, just as the Georgian wine, is hard to imagine without Ojaleshi. The mountainous and foothill villages of Samegrelo are the best places for growing Ojaleshi. Here, in this area, just as in Guria, wine growers practiced rambling vine over the centuries. Their vine grew on the trees.
Meskhet-Javakheti is one of the oldest hearths of viticulture and winemaking in Georgia. Many of the Kakhetian or Kartli varieties presumably originate from Meskheti. The peculiarity of Meskhetian viticulture deserves particular emphasis, as it entails the terrace vine growing, being the unique phenomenon for our wine culture. The Meskhet-Javakheti original varieties of Samariobo, Tskhenisdzudzu (white and black), Shavi Aspindzura, Akhaltsikhe Tetri are very promising.
Adjara says its important word in the subtropical zone with local Chkhaveri and vineyards built in mountainous regions. The old valleys of Adjara cherish the ancient Adjarian varieties - Chodi, Satsuravi, Brola, Khopaturi.
Abkhazia has unique varieties (Avasirkhva, Amlakhu, Kachichi, Agbishi) and some other West Georgian varieties, too, such as Tsolikouri, Chkhaveri and others.