Ge­or­gia: Cra­dle of Wine

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Ge­or­gia is one of the cra­dles of world wine cul­ture. For­merly a repub­lic of the Soviet Union, and known as the home­land of Joseph Stalin, it of­fi­cially de­clared its in­de­pen­dence on April 9, 1991. Lo­cated at the cross­roads of West­ern Asia and Eastern Eu­rope, it is con­nected to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Rus­sia, to the south by Turkey and Ar­me­nia, and to the south­east by Azer­bai­jan. Ge­or­gia cov­ers a ter­ri­tory of 69,700 sq.km, of which about 60 per­cent is moun­tains and 13 per­cent is low­land. Most of its ter­ri­tory is at an alti­tude of over 1,000 m and sit­u­ated in the Cau­ca­sus re­gion. Min­eral springs are the im­por­tant nat­u­ral re­source in the coun­try. Among the over-1,400 min­eral springs, about half are hot springs with medic­i­nal ef­fects.

Ge­or­gia is both a rich cul­tural cross­roads and a coun­try blessed with a mag­nif­i­cent nat­u­ral land­scape. The coun­try's for­est cov­er­age rate is 40.8 per­cent. The lush trees and beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment have won the coun­try the nick­name “God's back­yard.” Tbil­isi, the cap­i­tal city, is a melt­ing pot of di­verse cul­tures ben­e­fit­ting from its lo­ca­tion along the an­cient Silk Road. The small town of Ushguli, 2,200 m above sea level, is the old­est per­ma­nent habi­ta­tion in Eu­rope. Eu­rope's old­est cave vil­lages are lo­cated in Uplit­st­sikhe. Ad­di­tion­ally, Ge­or­gia has two UN­ESCO World Her­itage Sites: Mt­skheta's Svetit­skhov­eli Cathe­dral and Ku­taisi's Ba­grati Cathe­dral. The town of Gori is widely known as the birth­place of Joseph Vis­sar­i­onovich Stalin and is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for tourists from all over the world.

For Ge­or­gians, wine is a key part of daily lives. As one of the birth­places of red wine, Ge­or­gia is said to have a his­tory of more than 7,000 years of wine­mak­ing. Huge wine cel­lars can be found even in the an­cient Grata Monastery.

Use of qvevri, or earth­en­ware ves­sels, is a tra­di­tional wine­mak­ing method in Ge­or­gia. Its com­pli­cated brew­ing process and small out­put made Geor­gian wines more pre­cious in Eu­rope and North Amer­ica. This tra­di­tional brew­ing method has been listed as a UN­ESCO In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage and is used to this day. When pro­duc­ing wine, Ge­or­gians place grapes, grape skins and grape stems in clay pots. They bury the pots be­low ground and leave only the mouth above, al­low­ing the juice to fer­ment at 14 to 15 de­grees Cel­sius. The fer­men­ta­tion process leaves the wine with a very high level of tan­nin con­tent.

Geor­gian wine is es­sen­tial to any feast in the coun­try. It is con­sid­ered dis­re­spect­ful and in­dif­fer­ent to guests if no toasts are given at a ban­quet. French writer Alexan­dre Du­mas trav­elled ex­ten­sively in Ge­or­gia and was deeply im­pressed by the ban­quet cul­ture in the coun­try. He wrote that Ge­or­gians can sit at the ta­ble for days to drink, chat, write po­etry and en­ter­tain each other, and that toasts are in­evitable.

The wine in­dus­try has re-emerged as a pil­lar in­dus­try in Ge­or­gia and wine is a ma­jor com­mod­ity for bring­ing in for­eign cur­rency. Ge­or­gia has thus be­come one of the world's lead­ing wine ex­porters. There are more than 500 va­ri­eties of grapes grown in Ge­or­gia, a re­mark­able fact con­sid­er­ing that there are only 2,000 va­ri­eties of grapes in the world.

“This is our na­tional brand, a truly authen­tic wine,” said a Geor­gian rep­re­sen­ta­tive in­tro­duc­ing the Satavado brand at the third “Colour­ful World— Cul­tural Ex­hi­bi­tion of Coun­tries along the Belt and Road Event.”

She in­vited vis­i­tors to try a sam­ple. “Ge­or­gia, which con­nects Asia and Eu­rope, will play an im­por­tant role in the con­struc­tion of the ‘ Belt and Road' in the fu­ture. Wine is an im­por­tant part of Ge­or­gia's char­ac­ter­is­tics and cul­ture,” she added, “I hope this event is a start­ing point for the Chi­nese peo­ple to learn about Geor­gian cul­ture.”

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