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May 27, 2017

Where did vitis vinifera originate? Where do we think winemaking started? We think it's from the area that is now the Republic of Georgia. Once part of the USSR, this small, beautiful nation is reemerging as a wine power so it's time for an overview!

 

Here are the show notes:

Top level stuff...

 

  • Georgia is where Eastern Europe meets Asia. Between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea
  • As big as Scotland or Ireland
  • 111,000 acres of vines ranging from the coast of the Black Sea to Kakheti, on the other side of the Caucasus mountains
  • Outside Tbilisi, they only speak Georgian so when you go, you've gotta hire a guide

 

Location:

  • Russia to the north and Turkey and Armenia to the south
  • Primary wine region of Kakheti—according to Georgians, the birthplace of wine itself
  • The main wine regions, from Kakheti in the east and Imereti, Racha and Samegrelo in the west, are within a few hours’ drive from Tbilisi, the capital

Climate:

  • a diverse climatic landscape that varies from temperate to subtropical

An Historical Relic: Qveri (Kwhere-vree)

  • Traditional Georgian fermentation: a clay vessel used for centuries to produce wine in Georgia.
  • Qvervi: 1,000-liter beeswax-coated terra-cotta jar buried in the earth
    • A qvevri is a thick-walled vessel buried deep in the ground in a marani, or Georgian wine cellar.
    • naturally maintains wine at optimal temperature during fermentation and allows it to age for many years without spoilage.
    • Once fermentation is complete, the wine can be racked into another qvevri, leaving the heavy sediment behind.
    • Qvevri white wine is sharp, strong, amber. or in the case of reds, so dark it’s known as shavi gvino: black wine

 

 Grapes: 500+ indigenous grape varietals found in Georgia,

  • Red: Saperavi, Tavkveri and Chkhaveri plus Tavkveri, Shavkapito,  Chkhaveri and Ojaleshi.
  • White: Rkatsiteli (r-kat-see-telly), Chinuri and Mtsvane (mits-vane)
  • méthode Champenoise in Georgia since the late 1800s, with native grape
  • Orange wine:  Friuli winemaker Josko Gravner makes his sought-after “orange” wines using ancient Georgian techniques/qvervri

 

History:

  • Grapes and traces of wine residue have been found in archaelogical digs from 8,000 years ago.
  • Vitis vinifera originated from the Caucasus mountains in GA
  • Ottoman rule in west, Christianity in the east made east side of the country the wine powerhouse
  • Georgia came under Soviet control a few decades later. Small vineyards merged into huge co-ops =CRAP
  • Georgia declared independence in 1991
    • Russia's 2006 embargo on Georgian wine imports, lifted only in June 2013. Forced diversification into other, stronger markets

 

The wines of Georgia have a little ways to go, but they are a fascinating slice of vinous history and worth seeking out or trying if they are ever right in front of you!