The Near Eastern state (Russian: Grusinia) east of the Black Sea in Transcaucasia is one of the oldest wine-growing countries. It is also named as the origin of the cultivated grapevine, which, however, according to recent research, is believed to be in today's Turkey in south-eastern Anatolia (arrow). According to the Bible, Noah landed on Mount Ararat at the end of the Flood. Allegedly, the 5,000-year-old clay jars found near the town of Wani in Imeretia contained seeds of the Rkatsiteli vine. Grape seeds from cultivated vines as early as 7,000 years old indicate selection for breeding better grape varieties. Archaeology has provided evidence that viticulture was of great importance from the earliest times and was an integral part of Georgian culture. In the museum of the capital Tbilisi (Tiflis), there is a short piece of vine wood covered with silver that was found in Trialeti in the south and whose age was determined to be 3,000 BC. Numerous vine knives, stone stars, mills, clay and metal vessels as well as jewellery in the form of grapes and vine leaves dating from between 3000 and 2000 BC have been excavated in Mukheta, Trialeti and Pitsunda as well as in the Alazani Valley.
Rich ornaments with fruit-bearing vines are found on the walls of temples in the towns of Samtavisi, Ikalto, Gelati, Nikortsminda, Vardzia and Zarmza. In a poem by the Greek scholar Apollonius of Rhodes (3rd century BC), the librarian of the famous library in Alexandria, it is said in his work "Argonautica" that the Argonauts (heroes of Greek mythology), on their arrival in the capital Colchis, saw climbing vines at the entrance to the royal palace and a fountain with wine in the shade of the trees. Georgian legends testify to the love of the vine. Georgia adopted Christianity in the fourth century. The first cross was supposedly made of grapevines to demonstrate Christian religion and vine as the country's most sacred goods. For many centuries, viticulture had the greatest economic importance in Georgia, finally reaching an absolute peak in the Middle Ages.
After the Second World War, Georgia developed into an important wine supplier in the USSR, focusing on mass. By 1985, the area under vines had increased to 125,000 hectares. Then there was a severe setback due to the anti-alcohol campaign under Mikhail Gorbachev (*1931), as 40,000 hectares of vineyards were cleared and replaced by melon cultivation. At the time of independence from 1991, 75% of production was exported to Russia. In 2006, however, there was an import ban (on Moldovan wines, by the way), which Russia justified with the inedibility of Georgian wines due to contamination with pesticides and pollutants. Georgia saw this as a politically motivated action against the new pro-Western government. The Georgian wine industry was massively affected by this. The embargo was lifted at the end of 2011.
In 2012, the area under vines was 48,000 hectares with a declining trend (in 2000 it was 76,000 hectares). Of this, only 830,000 hectolitres of wine were produced (see also under wine production volumes). About two thirds are planted with red wine varieties and one third with white wine varieties. Wild gra pevines are still widespread in Georgia; the species Vitis vinifera sylvestris is still represented here today. There are over 500 autochthonous grape varieties, but only about 10% of them are approved for viticulture. There is a vine nursery in Sakar. The grape variety list 2010:
Under the wind-protecting influence of the towering Caucasus, there are ideal climatic conditions for viticulture. However, the country is characterised by a great diversity of soils and climatic conditions. The climate ranges from temperate to subtropical. There are five wine-growing regions. The most important, as the easternmost part of Georgia, is Kakheti with the capital Telavi. The vineyards are largely located on the slopes of the Alazani and Iori rivers. This is the home of traditional Kakhetian winemaking with clay jars (kvevris) buried in the ground. The climate is temperate, with average annual precipitation ranging from 400 to 800 mm. Calcareous soils predominate. This is where 70% of the grapes for wine and distillates grow. Kakheti is divided into three wine-growing areas and more than 25 sub-areas or appellations, such as Achascheni, Akhmeta, Gurdzhaani, Kindzmarauli, Kvareli, Manavi, Mukuzani, Napareuli, Sagaredzho, Signagi and Tsinandali.
The Kartlia region is located in the centre of the country in the Kura Valley and surrounds the lowlands of Gori and Mukhran. The basic wines for sparkling wine and brandy are produced here, accounting for 15% of Georgian production. The climate is moderate, summers are hot and dry. Due to low rainfall, averaging 350 to 500 mm, artificial irrigation must be used. The capital Tbilisi is located here with huge sparkling wine cellars and distilleries. The oldest winery, founded in 1897, has a unique wine collection with about 1,600 wines (about 150,000 bottles), among which are also very old foreign products of very old vintages. These are, for example, Cognac from 1811, Malaga from 1820, Marsala and Madeira from 1822, Sherry from 1848 and Tokay from 1846.
The region of Imeretia is located in western Georgia in the valleys of the rivers Rioni, Kvirila and others on alluvial soils. Here, too, there is traditional winemaking in jugs, similar to the Kakheti method. The Racha-Lechchumi region lies north of Imeretia on the banks of the Rioni and Tskhenistskali rivers. Moderate rainfall, southern exposure and a number of autochthonous grape varieties yield grapes with high sugar content. The Khvanchkara sub-region is known for the favourite wine of Josef Stalin (1878-1953). And the fifth region comprises the Abkhazia, Ajaria, Guria and Mingrelia regions, which lie to the west. In the subtropical climate prevailing here, mainly sweet wines are produced.
Georgia is best known for its red wines, which were considered the best in the Union in USSR times. Many fortified wines, sparkling wines and sweet wines are also produced, as well as distillates (wine, chacha = marc). At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Josef Stalin (1878-1953) surprised Winston Churchill (1874-1965) with the quality of "Grusinian cognac". Well-known producers are Aia, Bagrationi, Chetsuriani, Georgia Wine & Spirits, Khareba, Manavi Wine Cellar, Samkharadze & Co Ltd, Samtrest, Sarajishvili & Eniseli, Shukhman, Taro Ltd, Tbilvino, Telavi Wine Cellar, Teliani Valley, Tibaneli, Tsinandali (historic winery, now a museum), Vasiani, Vazi+ and Wine Company Shumi.