Georgia: Cradle of Wine
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.”