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History of wine

Travel agency in Georgia "Migioni"

Georgia – motherland of wine

On July 23, 1999 in the centre of London was opened a standing exhibition wine city – “Vinopolis”. This was the first large-scale exhibition in the world dedicated to the history of wine. 8-millennial history of origin and development of viticulture and wine-making in the world is presented in the exhibition hall of “Vinopolis”. Exposition begins with the Georgian exhibition hall named as “motherland of wine”. Georgia was presented to the world as the place of origin of viniculture and wine-making and the motherland of vineyard, in which a man for the first time cultivated wild vine and made wine. “Georgia is the country, from which viniculture has spread in Western Europe ….. In this country, 8 thousands years ago were made the wines of modern quality. The Georgians possess a special technology of wine producing and keeping”. The President of the Italian viniculture and wine-making academy, Professor J. Delmaso

During the archeological excavations, in the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, near Goderdzi Pass, in the areas of the Dzindze river was found a vine stamp, the length of which is more than 30 cm and the age is 15 million years. In the field of diatomite of Kisatibi village near Akhaltsikhe town were found the imprints of wild vine and leaf. Their age is 10 million years. Thus, Georgia is the homeland of vine - the ancient representative of the earth’s fauna.

The Georgian people during thousands years have been creating viniculture and the culture of wine-making, the technology of producing table wine and dessert wine was worked out. During the archeological excavations, performed in Shulaveri, Mtskheta, Trialeti, Alazani lowland, Vani, Bagineti, Zhinvali, and other places of Georgia, were found the golden, silver, bronze and clay drinking vessels and wine keeping vessels. The age of the aforementioned vessels starts since the 7th-6th millennium and their dating continues through the following centuries.

A man brought a vine from the forest, cultivated it and made cultural varieties. We can find wild vines twined around trees in the Georgian forests. The spread in Georgia wild vines unlike wild vines spread in other countries, mostly are related to cultural varieties spread in Europe, which once again confirms that Georgia is the place of origin of viniculture.

The existing in Georgia contrastive nature, i.e. the Main Caucasus Range, the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and the Lesser Caucasus Mountains on the one part and lowlands on the other part have conditioned that vineyards in Georgia are planted starting with 10 m and ending with 1340 m above the sea level. The favourable conditions of the Georgian viniculture and wine-making have conditioned the formation of more than 500 cultural varieties. Such a big number of grape varieties, being created on a geographically small territory, confirm that during the centuries, viniculture and wine-making were holding a high level in Georgia. In the ancient Assyrian sources dated to the beginning of the 1st millennium, the Georgians are mentioned as strong people, who have well developed agriculture, trade and handicraft. Wine-making is a leading sphere in Georgia. By the Assyrian King Sargon’s words there were laid many irrigation channels in the country. Georgia was full of vineyards and gardens, giving rich harvest of grape and fruit.

The ancient Greek historian Xenophon, who was in Western Georgia in 401-400 BC, wrote that the residents of the Caucasus Black Sea Coast make strong wine and if you mix water in wine, it is more pleasant for drinking.

In the “Argonautica” by Apollonius of Rhodes, which was written in the 3rd century BC and is dedicated to the travelling of the Argonauts in the 13th-12th centuries BC from Greece to Colchis, (Western Georgia) is described that when the ancient Greeks came to the Colchis King Ayetes palace in Aia city (at present Kutaisi), they were astonished by high vines near the King’s palace. The King’s palace was surrounded by big yards and columns, and fruitful vines twined around each column.

An ancient Greek traveller and geographer Strabon (64 BC – AD 24), who traveled in Georgia wrote in his book “Geography”: “Because of warm climate in winter, vines are not buried in the ground in Georgia. Young vine gives harvest in the second year. Fully grown vine in the vineyard gives so much harvest that the population does not manage to reap the whole harvest and part of grapes are left on vines. Wild vines occur in the Georgian forests.”

The historian Procopius of Caesarea during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian wrote in the 6th century: “Meskheti (the region of Southern Georgia) region is rich and abundant in harvest. Meskhs are hard-working people. The have many vineyards. Wine is exported abroad from Meskheti.”

In the 9th-10th centuries big political progress was mentioned in Georgia. Agriculture and its spheres like grain crops producing, fruit growing, vegetable growing, apiculture, silkworm breeding were well developed.

An important place in the country’s economics was holding viniculture and wine-making. Special progress was achieved in Georgia during the reign of Queen Tamar in the 12th century. In this period wine was exported from the Georgian Black Sea ports to many countries of the world.

It should be mentioned that the doors of Shiomghvime Monastery (the 6th century) and Gelati Monastery (the 11th century) are made of vine. This proves that vine in Georgia was of an enormous height and width, which confirms the high level of development of the Georgian viniculture.

During the archeological excavations in Kakheti region, the bronze cutting knife of vine was discovered, which is dated to the 2nd millennium BC. The wine cellar dated to the 3rd century BC was discovered in Vani village. The wine cellar dated to the 12th century was discovered in 1957 in Chobiskhevi village, in which 11 cone-shaped clay pitchers were placed and 5 from which were full. It should be mentioned that in the first clay pitcher the wine was Bordeaux, in the second – straw, in the third - honey yellow, in the fourth - lemon yellow and in the fifth one – colourless.

In the tunnel of the cave town Vardzia, which functioned in the 1st-10th centuries, up to 100 cone-shaped clay pitchers were discovered, one from which is of double wall. The clay pitcher of double wall fulfills the function of thermos and demi-doux and sparkling wines are made in it.

The great amount of wine existing in Georgia is proved by enormous pitchers, which are found in different regions of Georgia. F. e. in Racha, near the old fence of Barakoni Church, Mikheil Balas (Russian viniculturist 1851 - 1918) during the expedition discovered the clay pitcher, into which 7500 liters wine could go, and the other pitcher was 6,5m in length and 4,5m in width.

Georgian peoples’ respect to grape and wine is proved by the fact that one of the 12 months – October is called in Georgian as “Ghvinobistve” or the month of wine. A French traveller Jean Chardin (1643-1713), who traveled in Georgia in 1672-1973, wrote: “Nowhere else in the world is drunk so much and good wine as in Georgia”. The Georgian ancestors knew well and appreciated nutritional properties and the taste of wine. They neither had dinner nor traveled without wine. Moreover, they used wine as curative means. Wine cured gastrointestinal diseases, rheumatism, malaria, etc. Modern medicine proves that our ancestors were right: moderate wine consuming during dinner regulates digestion, heart functioning and digestion in general. As a result of examinations, a French scientist Flanz recognized the wine (the Kakhian type) made on the bunch of grapes as an anti-sclerotic product.

In Georgia, except the methods of wine-making recognized in the world, an original-Kakhian type method of wine-making exists, which is different from other countries’ methods (Kakheti is the region of Eastern Georgia).

Wine is made on the bunch of grapes in clay pitchers.

“Kakhian type of wine is light for drinking, puts a man in a cheerful mood and protect organism from getting tired. The Kakhian wines differ from other wines by nobility and extraordinary delicacy.”

Mikheil Khovrenko. A Russian scientist, winemaker- chemist (1866-1940)



In 1830 a German Lenz established a winery in Ruispiri village of Kakheti region. He produced demi-doux and champagne wines.
In 1884 Prince Oldenburg enlarged the winery purchased from French Choteau and increased champagne production from 2000 bottles to 60 000 bottles.
In 1888 David Sarajishvili established a cognac factory in Kutaisi town, which worked on local raw materials. In the same year under his initiative a liqueur factory was put in order. Sarajishvili brand united 5 rectification, 1 vodka, 1 liqueur and 7 cognac factories. Also, it united many warehouses in Tbilisi, Moscow, Petersburg, Odessa, Warsaw and other cities.
For 1900 Sarajishvili firm produced 218200 bottles cognac. In 1889 – 1913 Sarajishvili brand cognac and liqueur were awarded 9 gold, 5 silver and bronze medals at the international exhibitions.
In 1908 Ananov attached a large scale to champagne wine production in Vartsikhe. The factory’s productivity in a year made up 250000 bottles. Except champagne in Vartsikhe were produced cognac and table wine.
In 1907 the Russian royal agency was sending wine materials from Mukhrani, Georgia to Abrau-Durso factory located in Krasnodar town, where champagne bottling was performed.
Viniculture and wine-making in Georgia underwent fast progress in the 20th century. In 1875 vine was planted on 76 000 hectares in Georgia and in 1980s – on 144000 hectares. The Georgian wines are notable for the best quality and special taste of wine, which are proved by more than 300 gold and silver medals, which have been obtained by the Georgian wines at the international exhibitions since 1955.


Imprint of the wild vine leaf. Age – 10 million years. Kisatibi


Grape seeds of cultivated vine. The 7th-6th millennium BC. Shulaveri


Clay vessel. The 7th-6th millennium BC. Shulaveri


Clay vessel. The 7th-6th millennium BC. Shulaveri


Clay vessel. The 3rd millennium BC. Shulaveri


Wine keeping vessel. The 2nd millennium BC. Tsalka


Silver cup (wine drinking vessel). First half of the 2nd millennium BC. Trialeti


Clay vessel. The 2nd millennium BC. Urbnisi


Clay cup. The 10th-9th centuries BC. Mtskheta


Weapon for cultivation of land. Bronze. The 10th-8th centuries BC. Colchis culture


A man with wine cup. Bronze. The 6th-5th centuries BC. Kazbegi


A man with wine cup. Bronze. The 5th century BC. Vani


Silver cup. The 5th century BC. Vani


Silver cup. The 5th century BC. Vani


Silver cup. The 2nd century. Armaziskhevi


Silver jugs. The 3rd -4th centuries. Zhinvali


Image of grape on Nikortsminda Church. The 11th century


Image of grape on Samtavisi Church. The 11th century


Vintage. Painter Pirosmani. The 19th century


Wine pouring vessel


Wine vessel


Vineyard


Vintage


Winery in Kakheti


Georgian wines