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 earliest traces of viticulture and wine were found in the ancient Neolithic settlements in the neighborhood of Dangreuli Gora (Shulaveri Hill, Cut Hill, Khrami Big Hill, Arukhlo Hill, Khizanaant Hill and others). Besides grape seeds, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of cultural wheat and legumes, agricultural implements and pottery, proving that in the Neolithic period, the inhabited humans developed agricultural activities including viticulture and wheat growing.
The fragments of clay wine vessels found during excavations of the settlements testify to the fact that as early as the Neolithic period there was not a fledgling, but rather an already well-developed stage of agriculture, indicating that people started the domestication of the vine on the territory of Georgia an even earlier period.
The qvevri 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 qvevri) and the oldest technologies of making wine by qvevri all confirm that Georgia is truly an ancient wine making country.
Of the artifacts the Shulaveri-Shomu Tepe period, a ceramic vessel for wine found in Didi Gora (Khrami Big Hill), believed by scientists to be an ancestor of the qvevri which deserves the greatest attention. Currently, it is exhibited in the National Museum of Georgia and is considered the world’s oldest wine vessels.
Since the pagan period, wine has had a ritual and mystical destination. In Georgian folk belief, the Aguna, or Angura, is considered a patron saint of viticulture. In Guria, the sacrifice ritual to Aguna is still well preserved as a theatrical performance.
With the spread of Christianity and wine’s association with the blood of Christ, vineyards and wine in Georgia gained even greater importance. A disseminator of Christianity named St. Nino appeared in Georgia with a cross tied with vine branches. Holy wine has always been made in large quantities in monasteries and old cellars (Marani) still remain in many monasteries. Georgians considered the wine a holy drink and often donated it to the saints and the church. This wine is called Zedashe.
The majority of linguists agree that semantic meaning of the word “wine” is rooted only in Georgian language, and supposedly it is derived the verb “Ghvivili”. The root of the word, “ghv,” is purely Georgian and is found in many Georgian words.
Wild sorts of vine are still spread throughout Georgian territory. the 1980s, the forest vine has been included on Georgia’s the red list as an object of state protection. Along with the wild vine, over 500 Georgian domesticated vine types are described in Georgia. Of those, around four hundred thirty are protected in various state and private collection vineyards.
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 Qvevri 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.