Origin of Wine: Where and When did Winemaking start?

georgian-wine-map
Image by Georgian Wine Society UK

Many archaeologists believe Georgia to be the origin of wine. I’m not talking about Georgia, the American state. I’m talking about the Democratic Republic of Georgia, the country which borders Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey on the Black Sea. It is thought that wine was invented there almost 8,000 years ago and then spread via the Silk Road trading route which stretched from Ancient Rome to Western China.

Video: Is Georgia the cradle of world wine?

 

How the first wines were made

Georgians and archaeologists suspect that wine was discovered when the peoples of the South Caucasus Mountain region used clay pots (Qvevri) to store their grape juice for the winter. When they took it out, voila wine!

This ancient method of wine making is still used today. According to Georgia Wine Online, ” … wine made in Qvevri according to ancient traditional Georgian method is the healthiest and the most natural wine in the world – in terms of producing, storing and ageing as no additives or yeast are added nor temperature control is necessary – the slogan was born: In Europe it’s called Bio, in America it’s called Organic, in Georgia it’s called Tradition.” That’s right, Georgian wine made by the Qvevri method is 100% natural, organic, bio or whatever you’d like to call it. It is also a unique colour; amber or orange, so it doesn’t quite fit under the standard wine classifications of colour. The Qvevri method is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List and is a respected trade handed down from generation to generation.

Video: Ancient Georgian traditional Qvevri wine-making method

 

Origins of Grapevine Pest Management

Another organic method often used is maglari, where the grapevine is grafted on to other types of fruit tree such as Chanchuri (variety of plum) or apricot trees. This alternative to pesticides ensures that the pest-susceptible roots of the grapevine are not an issue. Instead, the pest-resistant fruit tree roots are supply the grapevine with nutrients forgoing their own roots.

 

Georgian regions best known for production are:

  1. Kakheti (Telavi and Kvareli) – ~70% of Georgian wine comes from Kakheti.
  2. Kartli
  3. Imereti
  4. Abkhazia

 

Wine Varietals of Georgia

The main foreign varietal used is Cabernet Sauvignon. Some others are Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, but the majority of Georgian wine is made with the 38 of the 525 indigenous grape types. The ones mainly used in exported wine are: Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Kisi, Kindzmarauli, and Mtsvane. They also make their own version of grappa which they call Chacha. Georgia is a perfect climate for grape growing because it doesn’t have extreme weather changes, there is fresh mountain water in the soil, and the air is moist from the Black Sea.

The biggest producers are: Chateau Mukhrani, Badagoni, Tbilvino, Telavis Marani, Giuaani, and Teliani Valley.

 

Wineries Supporting the Local Community

After the Tbilisi flood of 2015, many of the largest wineries contributed money and manpower to help the community recover. You can read more about this from story from Georgian Wine Blog Vinoge on how some of local wineries helped.

Video about Georgian wine, tradition and culture

 

Georgian Wineries & Local Tourism

There are also small family wineries like Schuchmann Wines, Tsinandali Winery and Winiveria Winery. Schuchmann Winery is especially notable for enotourism because not only do they have a beautiful winery in Telavi, but a lovely chateau/hotel. They also have one of the most happening wine bars and restaurants in the capital, Tbilisi. With free tastings, live music, and delicious Georgian fusion cooking, the Schuchmann Wine Bar & Restaurant is definitely a highlight of the Georgian wine scene. Chateau Mukhrani and Teliani Valley Wineries are also known for their stunning guest houses out on their vineyards and their classy tasting rooms in Tbilisi.

 

Wine Awards & International Accliam

Georgian wines are also gaining international acclaim with Teliani Valley winning a bronze medal for their Tsolikouri 2013 and Rkatsiteli Qvevri Glekhuri 2012 at the 2014 Decanter competition. The Chateau Mukhrani Reserve du Prince Collections have also won awards at the Decanters and international competitions in Brussels, China and London.

So now that you know, may you begin to enjoy Georgian wine. In the tradition of the Tamada(toastmaster) at a Georgian Supra (feast): “Gaumarjos!”

 

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