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GEORGIA THE HOME OF WINE

Georgia, located between Europe and Asia, is perhaps the most historic of the world's wine producing regions and, according to some researchers, is the very 'home' of wine - with the international words Wine/Vino/Wein deriving from the original Georgian word Gvino.

Perfect Conditions
Covering 27,000 sq. mi, Georgia is located between the Black Sea and the Caucasian mountains - providing the region with the perfect weather conditions for grape cultivation.

The Caucasus with 16,400 ft. high mountains, protect the country from the cold air from the north, while the Black Sea promotes the flow of warm air cross the country. In the western part of Georgia there is a humid subtropical climate, while a moderate, dry and continental climate characterises the eastern part of the country. The variety of climatic conditions across the country provide Georgia with an amazing diversity of flora and fauna - so much so that the WWF has declared Georgia to be one of the most important environmental regions of the world.

History of Viniculture
Georgian viniculture dates back approximately 5,000 years. During archaeological excavations in Mtskheta, Trialeti, Bichvinta and the Alazani Valley, grape pips, vineyard tools and wine utensils have been found dating back over 4,000 years, with grape pips actually found in ancient pitchers. Further research into the region has discovered that vines were formally cultivated in those times, with a silvered vine, dated to approximately 2,500 B.C. exhibited in the National Museum of Tbilisi.

According to Greek myths dating back to the 8th century B.C. vines were growing and wine flowing in the hall of the Kolkhis King's Palace in Kolkheti, Georgia. At this time, the Greeks began building cities along the Black Sea coast. Evidence suggests that as early as the 6th century B.C., viniculture was not only established in the region, but wine was already being exported to Greece and Persia.

The symbol of the Greek Orthodox church, the cross from a grapevine which is tied by St Nina's hair, testifies that the Christian faith and the vine are integral to the history of this amazing nation. Georgian churches are widely decorated with ornaments depicting vines and grapes.

From Ancient to Modern
During Soviet times, Georgian still and sparkling wines were enormously popular, with vineyards increasing from 143,000 acres in 1950 to 316,000 acres in 1985. In the middle of the '80s, annual production of wine was 881,000 tons, with Gorbachov's prohibition campaign hardly damaging Georgian wine making.

In 1991, after Georgia had gained independence and became a member of the World Trade Organisation, the economy had to change. Since that period, the Georgian wine growers have been taking early steps to strengthen their position in foreign markets. The wine law of 2002 created a legal framework for viniculture/winemaking and placed all activities under strict control to meet international standards. The Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany aided the Ministry of Agriculture in Georgia in establishing a wine quality system in 2003-2006, while the development of a regulatory authority and controlled viniculture have helped to create favourable economic conditions for small and medium sized wine producers.

Today viniculture remains as important a part of Georgian society as it ever has. The main difference, however, is that thanks to the opening of international trade, the vast array of high quality Georgian wines are now, for the first time, gaining real exposure beyond the domestic market - an exposure which is likely to see Georgian wine becoming as popular in foreign markets as it is in its homeland.