Georgian wine

Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The fertile valleys and protective slopes of the Transcaucasia were home to grapevine cultivation and neolithic wine production (Georgian: ღვინო, ɣvino) for at least 8,000 years. Due to the many millennia of wine in Georgian history and its prominent economic role, the traditions of wine are considered entwined with and inseparable from the national identity.

Among the best-known Georgian wine regions are Kakheti (further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli), Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Adjara and Abkhazia.

UNESCO added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using the Kvevri clay jars to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

The roots of Georgian viticulture have been traced back by archeology to when people of the South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was nourished by experience, and from 6000 BC inhabitants of the current Georgia were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, kvevris, in which to store their wine ready for serving at ground temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some may remain entombed for up to 50 years.

Georgia ranks 2nd (in terms of volume) in grape production in the former Soviet Union behind Moldova, and Georgian wines have always been the most highly prized and sought after in the Soviet space. Currently, the wine is produced by thousands of small farmers (using primarily traditional techniques of wine-making), as well as certain monasteries, and modern wineries.

According to the Minister of Agriculture of Georgia, wine production has increased from 13.8 million 750ml bottles in 2009 to 15.8 million bottles in 2010. In 2009 Georgia exported 10.968 millions bottles of wine to 45 countries. In 2010, Georgia exported wines to: Ukraine – about 7.5 million bottles, Kazakhstan – about 2 million bottles, Belarus – about 1.2 million bottles, Poland – about 870,000 bottles and Latvia – 590,000 bottles.

Georgia territorial and climate conditions are optimal for wine-making. Extremes of weather are unusual: summers tend to be short-sleeve sunny, and winters mild and frost-free. Natural springs abound, and the Caucasian Mountain streams drain mineral-rich water into the valleys. Georgia’s moderate climate and moist air, influenced by the Black Sea, provide the best conditions for vine cultivating. The soil in vineyards is so intensively cultivated that the grape vines grow up the trunks of fruit trees eventually hanging down along the fruit when they ripen. This method of cultivation is called maglari.

Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. Georgian wines are classified as sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.

There are five main regions of viniculture, the principal region being Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia’s grapes. Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For instance, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.

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