Irregularity and complexity of Georgia's relief stipulated variety of the climate, soil cover and vine-growing systems. According to archeological and ethnographical data, viticulture development on Georgian territories is related to the Eneolith period (the end of IV - beginning of III millennia B.C).
This is witnessed by seeds, specific trimming knives, ornaments with vine depictions and other objects that were discovered in ancient burial places (Mtskheta, Trialeti, Alazani Valley, Pitsunda, etc).
Wild grapes are broadly spread in Georgia. As the result of natural and artificial selection, such grapes have originated the rich stock of native species (more than 500 varieties) having various economic value. Among them there may be highlighted such excellent varieties as "Rkatsiteli", "Sapheravi", "Kakhuri Mtsvane", "Aladasturi", "Khikhvi", "Ojaleshi", "Alexandrouli", "Chkhaveri", "Usakhelouri" and others. Shrub formation methods (Olikhnari, Maglari, Dablari, Khardani, Kheivani, Talaveri, etc) are also diversified.
Over the centuries, viticulture used to be the leading sector of the oldest agriculture as well as the main source of Georgian population's economic welfare. In the 2-nd half of the 19-th century vineyard area accounted for 71.2 thousand ha. Vineyards are uncovered in Georgia. Their laying is carried out by utilization of graft seedlings. Shrub-keeping system is generally espalier (vertical). Subject to ecological conditions and peculiarities of the species, shrubs are usually characterized by the fan shape, horizontal cordon and both Georgian unilateral and bilateral forms having centuries-old history. The latest is often applied in mountain conditions and at farmlands.
The following five viticulture areas are allocated at the territory of Georgia: Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and the Black Sea Coast area.
In Georgia great importance is attached to variety zoning of grapes. More than 500 varieties are known in the country. 27 species are zoned among technical varieties. Main of them are "Aladasturi", "Alexandrouli", "Aligote", "Goruli Mtsvane", "Cabernet-Sovignion", "Kachichi", "Krakhuna", "Mujuretuli", "Kakhuri Mtsvane", "Ojaleshi", "Rkatsiteli", "Khikhvi", "Tsitska", "Chinuri", "Shardonay", etc. Among table varieties the following species are zoned: "Gorula", "Kirovabad Table Wine", "Kartuli Saadreo", "Tbilisuri", "Tskhenis Dzudzu" and "Shasla Tetri".
Survived historical monuments of Georgia's tangible culture as well as number of records confirm that the winemaking growth level was rather high in Georgia far before Christ (B.C) and, that the wine was exported from Georgia to Europe. After adoption of Christianity (at the beginning of the 4-th century) wine was broadly used in religious ceremonies. It is evidenced by the discovered wine church plates. After Georgia's liberalization from Arabian yoke (in 11-th century), technology and technique of wine production was improved along with other sectors of national economy. There were elaborated preparation methods of domestic wines, such as those of Kakheti, Imereti and Kartli. There have emerged stone and wooden presses as well as double-walled earthenware jugs of large capacity (known as Kvevri), where the fermentation temperature of the must is adjusted.
In the 17-th century, according to the French traveler Sharden, there was not a country elsewhere, where so much wines and of such a quality would be produced as in Georgia. First evidences on production of sparkling wine and cognac were emerged in 40-80s of 19-th century. In the first half of 1870s, Georgia had been producing 7,6 million decalitre of wine. And by 1913, volume of the wine achieved 9,2 million decalitre.
At present, main direction of Georgian winemaking is the production of table dry and semisweet wines; Georgian wine manufacturing is generally concentrated in three areas - Kakheti (about 60-70%), Kartli and Imereti. Vintage and ordinary table wines of European and Kakhetian types are produced in Kakheti; Wines of European type and cognac and champagne materials are prepared in Kartli; Wines of European and Imeretian types and cognac materials as well as 80% of the country's sparkling wine-materials are manufactured in Imereti. High-quality semisweet wines such as "Khvanchkara", "Usakhelouri" and "Tvishi" are produced in Racha-Lechkhumi region.
Peculiarities of winemaking
For centuries-old history of viticulture and winemaking, there were elaborated original methods for preparation of domestic types of wine in Georgia. Peculiarities of local methods are related to the fermentation process of the must (performed over grape husks with (or without) stems upon attainment of the technical ripeness of grape berries and upon the full maturity of the cluster's mechanical components: stem, skin and seeds)) and to the ageing and storing of the wine.
One of the most widespread manufacturing methods of wine is the Kakhetian method, which consists in the following:
Ageing and storing of wine are implemented in specific jugs known as "Kvevri", having the conical form. They are set into the ground and just the aperture of it appears at the level of the floor. Capacity of those jugs amounts to 300-500 decalitre. Imbedding of the Kvevri in the ground enables adjustment of the temperature's constancy (at about 14 -15C) during the must fermentation and its storage as well. This facilitates the keeping of wine's perfect quality for rather long time. Historically, for obtaining the must in Georgia, grapes were mainly pressed by legs, while seeds, which impart strong bitterness to the wine during shattering, are not damaged.
Fermentation process proceeds directly over the grape husks with stems in Kvevri (duringm 3-4 months) until complete readiness. After, juice is separated and decanted into the separate vessel, where the after-fermentation is carried out under the general technological scheme. Juice is additionally squashed up from the pulp. This process is also applied for obtaining the wine.
Just this peculiarity - fermentation of wine materials over the husks - plays the leading role in formation of specific parameters of Kakhetian wines. Such wines, processed under the above-mentioned method, are characterized by the marked fruity aroma and flavor, dark-amber or tea (white) and dark pomegranate (red) colors, by high spirit level (11-13%) and extractivity (above 20g/dm3), by the moderate acidity (4,0 - 5,5g/dm3) as well as by high percentage of phenolic and dye-staffs (2,0 - 3,5g/dm3).
According to Imeretian method, unlike the Kakhetian one, fermentation process is implemented over the husks of grapes, along with the detachment of stems. Final product bears dark-straw and amber colors. It has the pleasant sour flavor and contains 10,5 - 13,0% of spirit. Titratable acidity totals 6,8 - 8,0 g/dm3. Its specified extract amounts to no less than 21 g/dm3.
Specific attention is focused on Georgian technology of natural semisweet wines. Technology generally consists in fermentation of high-sugary must (23-26%) upon the low temperature in the late autumn or upon refrigeration. Such Georgian wines are called the natural semisweet ones due to the fact that their sweetness is accounted for by the availability of natural grape sugar, which remains digested. However, unlike the port, they are not alcoholized for inhibiting of fermentation.
With the aim to keep the wine's desirable sweetness, fermentation is inhibited by cooling or reiterative decantation for separation of yeast and nitric substances (incomplete fermentation). Prior to bottling, barrel wine is under refrigeration up to 4 - 5C during the period of two months. After filtration, bottled wine is pasteurized and stored in cold and is transported through refrigerator cars.
Clasifications of Wines
The following classification of grape wines and alcoholic beverages of grape-vine origin produced in Georgia has been established:
According to quality:
According to types:
Naturally semidry and semisweet wines;
Semidry and semisweet wines;
Sparkling and carbonated wines;
According to colour:
Based on: Georgian Wine and Vine Portal