Georgia claims to be “the cradle of wine”
16 January, 2014
Georgia claims to be “the cradle of wine”
The Georgian government has launched a project seeking scientific proof of its claim that it is the “cradle of wine.” Armenia contests the claim. Prestige at the international level is at stake.
Archeologists have discovered ancient artifacts convincing scientists that the South Caucasus region, considered in its entirety, is the cradle of wine. However, some scientists narrow it down to Georgia, where proof that viticulture was practiced in 8000 has been discovered.
Georgia also cites its use of ancient winemaking
technology - unchanged for thousands of years - in the form of the Qvevri, a clay jar imbedded in the earth, which is included on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Also, Georgia has the largest pool of endemic varietals; out of roughly two thousand grapes making up the international pool, 520 are Georgian.
Around 80% of wine writers name Georgia as the origin of wine. The remaining 20% name the South Caucasus. Now Georgia, trying to make a name in the international market, intends to settle the dispute once and for all.
As Levan Davitashvili, Head of the Wine Agency operating with the Ministry of Agriculture, said in an interview with Georgian Journal, the project will include leading specialists at the international level - such as archeologists, genetic experts, progeny DNA specialists, etc. - who will identify the origins of Georgian wine.
“The dispute over the cradle of wine should be settled once and for all, and all related scientific arguments should be put on the table,” Davitashvili said. “We have fragmented materials that Georgia gave the origin to wine; however, the leading scientists do not acknowledge it so far and we should work on this. Yes, we believe Georgia is the cradle of wine but it requires scientific approval.”
According to Davitashvili, this, coupled with Qvevri recognition, is a fine marketing tool for the entire Georgian wine industry. It will help Georgia to build its brand as an ancient wine producing country. But Avag Arutinyan, Head of the Union of Armenian Wine Producers, disagrees with the Georgian government. He believes the entire South Caucasus is the cradle of wine and separate countries of the region should not claim this status. In his interview with radio Commersant on 8 January, he reminded listeners that a few years ago archeologists discovered a sort of winery in Armenia that was traced back to six thousand BC, and Armenia has an equal claim. Arutinyan fears that if this status is granted to Georgia, its competitive power will increase so much that it will cause discrimination against other wine producers in the region. He suggests developing a united Caucasian wine brand instead, to win the international competition.
However, Georgian wine pundits believe the crucial thing for competition is not the status but wine quality and price. They support the governmental initiative not only for the sake of marketing but also for Georgian wine culture as a whole.
“Let the scientists settle the dispute,” Shalva Khetsuriani, Head of the Association of Georgian Sommeliers and owner of Khetsuriani Wine Cellar, said. “Why shouldn’t we try if they have plenty of obvious evidence? I doubt that the Armenian side would not have tried if they had as much evidence as we do.”
Promoting Georgian wine under a unified Caucasian brand is senseless, he believes. “Armenian and Azeri wines are of a much lower class and cannot be put next to Georgian wines. Besides, they offer really few options compared to the ample choice of Georgian varietals and appellations. We should work on building the Georgian wine brand.”

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