They are meditative wines, sumptuous and subtle.
At the intersection of history, culture, and wine grape variety lies a region referred to as the “Cradle of Wine.” Georgia, about a 5-hour flight due west of Rome, and resting at the same latitude as the Oregon/California border, boasts a climate and terrains well suited for the cultivation of wine grapes.
Situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Georgia is recognized as the oldest winemaking country in the world. Archaeological evidence suggests that Georgia has completed more than 8,000 vintages—an enduring history that has given rise to more than 525 indigenous grape varieties across ten distinct winegrowing regions:
- Bolnisi (to be added on maps in 2020)
With its variety of grapes and winemaking practices, Georgia offers the wine-drinker an unparalleled range of tastes: some unique, some familiar, and some nearly impossible to describe. As winemakers continue to explore and experiment with the country’s native grape varieties, more distinctive and unique wines will continue to emerge from the region.
The country of Georgia – located about 1000 km due east of Rome and slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut -- is bordered by Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, and the Black Sea.
Number of Wineries
100,000+ family wineries
As of July 2019, 1088 Georgian wine companies/wineries have registered to sell wine commercially. Georgia is an ancient wine region, but also developmental (post-Soviet era). There has been a dramatic number of family wineries registering their wineries for commercial production:
- 2016 = 402 registered wineries
- 2017 = 635 registered wineries
- 2018 = 936 registered wineries
- 2019 (7 months) = 1088 registered wineries
50,000 hectares of vines
The National Wine Agency is implementing a vineyard cadastre program, which shows the quantity and quality status of vineyards and wine. The program includes: taking ortho-photos, preparation of cadastral maps, identification and vectoring of vineyards, gathering information about vineyards and viticulturists.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
As of 2019, Georgia currently has 20 PDO’s:
- Saperavi Khashmi
The 2018 grape harvest in Georgia broke national records with over 245,000 tons of grapes processed. The estimated income of 22,000 grape growers who participated in last year’s harvest exceeded 300 million GEL ($102.5 million USD).
- 86 million bottles were exported from Georgia to 53 countries. This represented $203 Million USD.
Georgian Exports to the US Market
- Exports from Georgia to the US increased 54% year over year over during the last three years.
- In 2018, nearly half of million bottles were imported to the US.
- As of July 2019, Georgian wine exports to the US market are up 88% from 2018
- As of July 2019, there were more than 80+wineries available in the US market
- The average ex-cellars price of Georgian wine to the US market is $5.14
- The average ex-cellars price of Georgian wine to Russia is $2.26
Country vs. Republic
The country of Georgia was known as the “Republic of Georgia” under the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The country achieved independence in April 1991. Please refer to Georgia as “Georgia” or “the country of Georgia” when referencing Georgia.
Illegal Occupation vs. "Break-Away"
In 2008, the Russian government illegally took over two regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both are widely recognized as integral parts of Georgia and together represent 20% of Georgia's internationally recognized territory.
Russia is illegally occupying 20% of Georgian land and continue to illegally advance the “border” meter by meter. When referencing these areas do not refer to these as “break away” territories, as they are illegally occupied territories.
The Georgian “Law on Occupied Territories of Georgia,” adopted in 2008, criminalizes and prosecutes entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Russian side without special permission.
Georgia and several other members of the international community -- including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, Israel, Australia, China, Italy, France, Brazil, Ukraine, the European Union, OSCE, and Council of Europe as well as the United Nations -- have recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupied territories and have condemned the Russian military presence and actions there.
Origin of Wine
Current scholarship names Georgia as the birthplace of wine.
In 2016 in southwest Georgia, archaeologists discovered clay vessels containing cultivated grape seeds that were dated to 6000 BC using archaeological, archaeobotanical, climatic, and chemical methods. The results, “Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus,” were published in November 2017 by the National Academy of Sciences.
Continually, since the 6th century BC, Georgians have made wine in a vessel called a qvevri. These giant (generally 1000 liter) clay vessels are often lined with beeswax and buried underground to keep temperatures constant. Winemakers ferment the juice in these vessels, simultaneously allowing the grape skins to macerate with the juice, which turn what many American consumers expect to be white wines into an amber color, and adding tannin to both the resultant amber and red wines.
Qvevris are still made by hand by one of Georgia’s five “master” qvevri-making families; with the rising popularity of amber and natural wines, there is an increasing demand for qvevris in Georgia and around the world. In 2013, this tradition of Georgian winemaking -- which defines the lifestyle of families and communities, and forms an inseparable part of their identity -- the United Nations added qvevri winemaking to the UNESCO list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”