Ancient history of Georgian wine

A Neolithic jar — possibly used for brewing wine — found at the site of Khramis-Didi-Gora in Georgia, on display at the Georgian National Museum.© Mindia Jalabadze/Georgian National Museum

A Neolithic jar © Mindia Jalabadze/Georgian National Museum

Known as the "cradle of wine," Georgia has been producing organic Qvevri wines almost since the birth of civilization. To understand just how ancient the winemaking tradition in Georgia is, here are some of the most important events that took place between the timeline of the 6th millennium B.C.  and the 4th Century, A.D.

The 6th millennium B.C. - Archaeological excavations in the South Caucasus region of Georgia uncovered the evidence of grape pips. Their morphological and ampelographic characteristics were identical to those of vitis vinifera sativa. Moreover, they discovered ancient clay vessels that could have been the precursor of the Qvevri. 

The 5th- 3rd millennium B.C. – More grape pips were found in Khizanaant Gora, others in the gorge of Lori River, belonging to the Mtkvari- Araxes culture from the early Bronze Age. 

The 4th - 2nd millennium B.C. – Early Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age relics indicate the development of various forms of small-sized Qvevri-type vessels.

The 2nd millennium B.C. – Grape pips were found in a Late Bronze Age dwelling in the village of Dighomi near Tbilisi. This find was particularly important, as it was the first time that wine and table varieties of grape pips had been found together. 

The 8th century B.C. - The Homers Iliad and Odyssey that was written some three or four hundred years after the Argonautic expedition, mentions that they have tasted excellent wine in Colchis -an exonym for the Georgian polity in pre-Hellenistic Greco-Roman geography.

The 7th century B.C. – During the early Iron Age, the qvevris are characterized by a flat bottom and a stone lid, and its shoulders are encircled by three vertical and two wavy bands of decoration. The qvevri also bears a symbol on one side.

The 6th Century B.C. - Many archeological findings confirm that qvevris though with different shape, manufacture, color, and decoration were in great use both in the eastern and western parts of Georgia. 

The 4th- 3rd Century B.C. - The size of the Qvevri increases and the bottom of Qvevri became progressively more pinched so that they could bear the weight of earth around them.

The 3rd century B.C. -The Agriculture of Apollonius Rhodius, narrating the ancient Greek myth on the carrying of the Golden Fleece from Colchis, describes the palace of Colchian Kind Aeetes, where the Argonauts, had seen many wonders, including a vine alley where wine flowed from fountains.

The 4th Century, A.D. - Saint Nino preached Christianity with the grapevine cross, resulting in the consequent Christianization of Iberia, of what is now part of Georgia. As a result, both wine and vine acquired a different meaning in religious ritual services as well as public lifestyle. The churches and monasteries started to engage in winemaking actively: the Nekresi monastery founded in the 6th century has its ground floor almost entirely occupies by a wine cellar, including several Qvevries buried under its soil along with a large stone winepress. 

  (Source: National Wine Agency, Brochure: Georgia: the cradle of wine)

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