About Georgian Wines

"Georgia has produced the earliest evidence of wine selection and hence the emergence of the cultivated variety: Vitis vinifera sativa. Carbon-dating puts this change to domestication at about 5,000 BC."

"The Vintner's Art", Hugh Johnson & James Halliday


"The Transcaucasian region, home today to the Georgians, is one of Vitis vinifera sativa land and is believed to have been the place where grapes were first harvested to be made into wine some 7000 years ago."

"VINOPOLIS World Wine Guide", Oz Clark


The ancient kingdom of Georgia is nestled along the southern exposures of the Great Caucasus Mountains, Europe's highest. Its remarkably varied topography ranges from near desert in the east to subtropical lowlands in the far west along the Black Sea coast that receive up from 1000mm-4000mm of rain per annum; and from sharp, snow-covered peaks in the north to the undulating plateaus, forests and plains that descend southward into Turkey. More than one-third of the country lies in this influential mountain system. Georgia has long been famous as an agricultural country. Almost everything grows there, given the wide range of climates and topography. But preeminent among Georgia's verdant harvest is wine.

Viticulture


Georgian viticulture is varied and complex. The irregularity and diversity of Georgia's terrain, its variable climate and changing soil cover, evolved over millennia a rich selection of vine-growing systems. Archeological and ethnological evidence - for example, seeds, vine trimming knives, and ornaments with depictions of vines that have been discovered in Georgia's ancient burial places of Mtskheta, Trialeti, Alazani Valley and Pitsunda, among others - date viticulture development in Georgia to the Eneolith period, that is from the end of 4th to the beginning of 3rd Millennia B.C. Georgia, many historians believe, is the birthplace of wine cultivation.

In ancient times, wild grapes prospered widely across Georgia. Rich stocks of native species emerged from both natural selection and purposeful cross-pollination that resulted in more than 500 varieties having commercial value. Among the most famous are Rkatsiteli, Sapheravi, Kakhuri Mtsvane, Aladasturi, Khikhvi, Ojaleshi, Alexandrouli, Chkhaveri, and Usakhelouri. For centuries, viticulture dominated Georgian agriculture, and it early became the main source of the Georgian population's economic welfare. By the second half of the 19th Century, vineyards occupied more than 70 thousand hectares in Georgia.

Vineyards are uncovered in Georgia. Seedlings are grafted; the shrub-keeping system is generally espalier (vertical), and, depending on ecological conditions and the peculiarities of species, are generally recognizable by their historical characteristics: fan shape, horizontal cordon, and both Georgian unilateral and bilateral forms, the latter often found in mountain conditions and in farmlands.

Georgia encompasses five distinct viticulture regions: Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and the Black Sea Coast.

In Georgia great importance is attached to "zoning" grapes by variety. More than 500 varieties are cultivated in the country, of which 27 are mainly zoned. These include: Aladasturi, Alexandrouli, Aligot, Goruli Mtsvane, Cabernet-Souvignon, Kachichi, Krakhuna, Mujuretuli, Kakhuri Mtsvane, Ojaleshi, Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi, Tsitska, Chinuri, and Chardonay. Zoned table varieties include: Gorula, Kirovabad Table Wine, Kartuli Saadreo, Tbilisuri, Tskhenis Dzudzu and Shasla Tetri.

Winemaking

Monuments and documents have survived that confirm that winemaking was well advanced in Georgia long before Christ, and even that the wine was exported from Georgia to Europe at this time. With the coming of Christianity to Georgia at the beginning of the 4th Century, wine was used widely in religious ceremonies, a finding that is strengthened by the discovery of church wine plates. When Arab domination of Georgia retreated in the 11th Century, wine making techniques and the attendant technology improved markedly. Among the most innovative developments, for example in Kakheti, Imereti and Kartli, were the introduction of stone and wooden wine presses, and, especially, the famous double-walled earthenware jugs of large capacity (known as Kvevri), where the fermentation temperature of the must is regulated.

In the 17th Century, the French traveler Monsieur Sharden observed that Georgia produced a greater quantity of high quality wine than any other country. The production of sparkling wine and brandy emerged in 19th Century. By the 1870s, Georgia was producing 7.6 million decalitres of wine per annum, according to existing records. By 1913, this volume exceeded 9 million decalitres.

Today the main thrust of Georgian winemaking is the production of vintage, table dry and semisweet wines. Winemaking is generally concentrated in three regions: Kakheti, which produces from 60-70 percent of the total, Kartli and Imereti. Vintage and ordinary table wines of European and Kakhetian types are produced in Kakheti; wines of European type, as well as cognac and champagne, are prepared in Kartli; and wines of European and Imeretian types and brandy, as well as 80 percent of Georgia's sparkling wine, are produced in Imereti. High-quality semisweet wines such as Khvanchkara, Usakhelouri and Tvishi come mainly from the Racha-Lechkhumi region.

Teliani Valley Plc.

The Teliani Valley Winery is currently one of the top producers of quality Georgian wine. Established in 1997 on the site of a 19th century winery in Teliani village, its first vintage was released in 2000. In May 2004, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development became the company's strategic financial partner, allowing the winery to make substantial improvements. These included completing a new production facility (commissioned in 2005), increasing quality by combining modern technologies with local traditions, improving management and marketing, and deepening branding.

Teliani Valley today exports to the United States, The Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, as well as to several countries in Central Asia.