Georgia is connected to wine culture with eight- thousand-year continuous history, which is proved by many archeological and historical facts. There are kept a lot of exhibits of winemaking dating back millennium in Georgian museum.
Wine had ritual and mystical purpose since pagan period. In Georgian fold beliefs “Aguna” and “Anguna” were considered as Gods of winemaking. Theatrical ritual of sacrifice towards to “Aguna” is still preserved in Georgia.
After the spread of Christianity, when the wine connected to the blood of Christ, vineyard and wine gained more importance in Georgia. The St. Nino who preached Christianity in Georgia appeared in Georgia with grape wine cross. There was made a large number of wines in monasteries and ancient cellars are still preserved in the monasteries today. Georgian wine was considered as the saint drink and it was often sacrificed to the saints. The wine for the saints and churches was called sacramental (“zedashe”).
Some linguists mention that, the word “ghvino” (wine in Georgian) semantically is confirmed in Georgian language, supposedly it is from the verb “ghvivili”. The root of the word “ghv” is Georgian and it is found in many words.
Wild grape – Vitis Vinifera Silrestris is still spread in the territory of Georgia. In the early 80-ies wild grape is in the Red Book of Georgia, as the object of state protection. Besides wild grape, there are described more than 500 Georgian varieties of grape, of which 430 are protected by the state and private collectors’ vineyards.
Georgian man has been engaged in growing grape and winemaking since ancient time – in this period was established a rich culture and a diversity of variety of wine, there was processed a care system of vineyard cultivation, was carried out vineyard creating and caring systems, was improved wine dish and was developed the culture of wine pitcher, were created Imeretian and Kakhetian technologies of wine-making. Wine gained a sacral meaning and turned into one of the basis of nation’s economic well-being for centuries.
XIX century is considered as one of the most important periods of Georgian wine history. With the help and a strong attempt of Aleksandre Chavchavadze Georgian poet and public person Georgian wine became closer to European wine. Some of the wines, which have names according to the locations where they are made, were used to be made during 30s of XIX century in Chavchavadze’s residence. In the early 90s these following wines were regularly made: “Tsinandali”, “Mukuzani”, “Napareuli” and “Teliani”. At the same time, in the village Ruispiri well-known German wine specialist Lenz created a wine caller and planted Georgian and foreign varieties.
In the 70s of XIX Georgian wine was started to be sent abroad from Ivane Mukhran-Batoni callers. Scientific studies over Georgian wine varieties started in the middle of the twentieth century. In the 70s the first published descriptions about Georgian grape varieties appeared in Paris and London.
In the XIX century there were held a lot of exhibitions, where Georgia also participated. At this time Europe got to know Georgian wines and brands. In 1900 at Paris exhibition Georgian winemaking was widely exhibited. As the papers wrote at that time, at the exhibition were exhibited photos of wine cellars of “Kakheti Prince vine-yards”, equipment, a quite big collection of there following grape bunches: Rkatsiteli, Sferavi, Takveri, Tita etc. There were exhibited wine samples in bottles, wineskin etc. Afterwards Georgian wine went to the international arena and achieved many success.
Since the end of XX century Georgian wine has been developing. Georgian wine-makers entered to Europe, America and Asian markets quite successfully. The demand over Georgian wine has increased, it has a big potential to get a respectable place in the world wine market.
Making wine in pitcher started 8 thousand years ago in Georgia and Georgians still keep this tradition. Georgian traditional wine making pitcher method was given the status of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2013, which indicates the uniqueness of this method and this is the message for the whole world that wine is an integral part of the ancient Georgian culture. This recognition is important for increasing wine awareness and promote the popularization of Georgian wine in the world.
Pitcher is the unique clay vessel for wine-making and storage. The oldest pitcher discovered in Georgia belong to BC III-II millennium. Today the shape of current Georgian pitcher was formed in BC III-II millennium. Prior to this period, mostly small pitchers were spread, which did not exceed a height 1-1.5 meters and had a flat bottom and wide abdomen. Now the most widely spread pitchers are oval-shaped.
There are distinguished pitcher-wine in Georgia – Monastery so called “sacramental” (Zedashe in Georgian). This is red wine and it is used in church ceremonies. Sacramental wine making is not different from ordinary pitcher wine making process. Mostly the difference is with its purpose and context than with wine technology. Sacramental does not need a filtration or adding some substances, but timely removal from hunks of grapes and well planning of removal time.
A lot of companies produce pitcher wine in Georgia. Besides Georgia, other countries also got interested in pitcher wine making. It should be mentioned that in the recent years more and more pitcher Georgian wine is exported, including traditional wine countries such as Italy and France.