Sunday, 26 May, 2024
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Georgian wine

"And the gentile desecrated the cathedrals and the church and destroyed the vine". Every invasion to the lands of Georgia started in the same way. The first thing an enemy did was depriving the Georgian people of the origin of their power.
For a Georgian the wine is a mystical, divine liquid. Vinaceous culture is an ancestry of the national formation. Georgia is often called "The Wine Cradle". Vineyard has been there for centuries. And the centuries give a mystical tint to anything.

Vine used to associate with the symbol of Georgia and its pride since ancient times. The fact of worshiping wine, as a holy drink can be met in Georgia yet in the second millenium before Christ.

Fertile ground, favourable climate, efforts and devoted love of hard-working people preserved over 500 species and varieties of aboriginal Georgian vine. Among these species there are such world famous as Saperavi, Alexandrouli, Odjaleshi, Rkatsiteli, Usakhelouri, Mtsvane, Chkhaveri, Aladasturi, Tsolikauri, Krakhuna, Tsitska. Famous brands of Georgian wines are made of these grape varieties - Mukuzani, Khvanchkara, Tsinandali, Napareuli, Kindzmarauli, Barakoni, which favour success at many world exhibitions and are awarded with numerous gold and silver medals.

Georgian man used to look after the vine like as it were its own child, not saving strength and energy for it. And finally in autumn when the grapes grew clustered, sweeten and aroma-juicy - there would begin the wedding of vine, what we call vintage - grape gathering.

From the distance of ages up to now the vintage used to be a kind of celebration, which included a number of rituals and preparation for it was usually beginning earlier enough. Before setting up the vintage people used to get occupied firstly with washing of traditional earthenware jugs, which we call Kvevri, and put order in wine cellars, which we call in our language - Marani. "In the belief and consciousness of Georgian people there rigidly dwelt worshiping to the vine tree and wine, like to that of saint icon and juice. Grapes and grape's juice were regarded as a subject of contribution. Saint was as well a vessel, where juice of grapes was kept - which is Kvevri and Marani itself ". Thus since those earlier times Marani was considered to be a place of worship. Meanwhile the wine and Kvevri were widely acknowledged as subjects of contribution.

When Maranis and Kvevris were fully prepared and ready, then there would come the turn of preparing buckets and panniers. Apart from celebration mood the vintage carried maximal load of significance, as far as vineyard grower measured its family's welfare, present and future through the harvest of grapes. With good harvest it would treat worthily the peacefully comer and give suitable respond to hostiles. There would be chosen sunny, dry weather for grape gathering. In addition there was given enough time to grapes to pick sweetness, as far as would they harvest riper grapes, better wine would they manufacture. That's why there is saying: in good wine there is much sun.

Apart from family members in vintage ceremony would participate relatives and close friends as well. Animal sacrifices were necessary attributes for vintage. Goat or sheep with a cock were usually to be sacrificed in such ceremonies. On the day of vintage the head of family would go down to the vineyard early in the morning, put up the fire and other vintage participants would join him with provisions, wine, bread and sacrificed animal. There was strict habit to have breakfast before beginning of grape gathering, where the head of family would raise a toast with grape's brandy: "God, let us have wealth and health to meet such times always with happiness".

Before commencement of grape gathering there was a tradition to cut off the vine tree Chkha (a branch of vine with two bunches of grapes on it) or Akido (massive branches of vine consisting from several Chkha), and according to the records the first and the best part of the harvest was sacrificed to the god.

Grape gathering ran with such a joy that people even did not think about eating until they would get host's home in the evening. In earlier times for vintage people used woven panniers, baskets and their national variations. In the top of vineyard was positioned huge woven pannier and from the rows of vine would start the flow of harvested grapes collected in baskets and panniers. So used to be in Eastern Georgia, where in principle Rkatsiteli, Saperavi and Mtsvane sorts of grapes were majoring, meanwhile in Western Georgia were majoring Tsitska and Tsolikauri. Due to Geographical peculiarities in western Georgia was habituated to grow climbing vine species on trees, but in vintage main necessity still was singing while grape gathering.

After completing the vintage there was a habit to make large table and enjoy great feast, which inevitably included sacrificed animal. In smaller vineyards vintage would finish in one day, while with the owners of large vineyards it would last some times for 10-15 days. Grapes used to be crushed the same day of gathering because overnight grapes would spoil. Grapes mainly were crushed in special large bowl called - Satsnakheli, but some times they were crushed manually or by feet as well.

Vintage period would not end with this. Even after the gathering of grapes and crushing there were a series of works to be done: tidy up of Marani, supervision to fermentation of wine in jugs, storage of grapes selected for table, cooking of grape's juice for preparation of traditional sweets with flour called - Tatara, preparation of Tatara for traditional sweets with nuts and hazelnuts called - Churchkhela, decant of wine and many others.

This is the way people in Georgia used to celebrate vintage in the past, which traditions survived up to now, however with technical development many processes inherent to vintage has been facilitated. In modern wine factories and cellars crushing of grapes and wine manufacturing is carried out through various technologies.