From Georgia to Lebanon: exploring the best wines of the ancient world
03 May, 2018
From Georgia to Lebanon: exploring the best wines of the ancient world
As it is widely known, Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The fertile valleys and protective slopes of the Transcaucasia were home to grapevine cultivation and neolithic wine production for at least 8000 years. Due to the many millennia of wine in Georgian history and its prominent economic role, the traditions of wine are considered entwined with and inseparable from the national identity.
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Unique Georgian wine cellar - Marani

Among the best-known Georgian wine regions
are Kakheti (further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli), Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Adjara and Abkhazia.

It is also worth mentioning that UNESCO added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using qvevri clay jars to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

All these above-mentioned reasons make Georgian wine famous and loved throughout the world. Georgian wine and traditional method of fermenting wine in clay vessel have been subject of many articles, video-reportages and analyses by world’s leading media agencies.
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It’s the rich sense of history in every sip of Georgian wine that makes it so appealing to wine nerds. Photograph: Alamy

Well-known British publication the Guardian often shows the interest towards Georgian wine. The magazine has recently published an article titled “Why Georgia is a hotspot for natural wines,” where it was stressed that nowadays Georgian wine occupies the leading positions at global market.

This time, The Guardian devotes yet another article to Georgian wine and winemaking traditions.

According to the author of the article, Chad Parkhill, most wine drinkers, and many wine professionals, somewhat crudely divide the wine world into just two parts. There’s the “old world”, which usually encompasses France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Austria; and the “new world”, which covers the United States, South America (especially Argentina and Chile), Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
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Wine in qvevri, earthenware vessel used for the fermentation, storage and ageing of traditional Georgian wine

However, there are some special places in the world that he likes to call the “old-old world,” because they have a very long history of winemaking and are considered marginal both in terms of production quantity and prestige.

“Here’s a primer to some of the more marginal regions that produce great wines and are often overlooked, – although there are plenty more – including Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic – that are equally deserving of your attention,” writes the author. The names the places distinguished for wine culture and begins by mentioning Georgia, theis regarded as “the cradle of wine”.
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Fragments of 8000-year-old earthenware jars found in Georgia

The article stresses the importance of historic discovery recently found in Georgia, which proves that it truly is the oldest winemaking country in the world.

“Research published in late 2017 dates wine production in Georgia’s Gadachrili Gora site back to around 6000 BC – the earliest known evidence of winemaking of any sort,” reads the article.
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The discovery proves that it truly is the oldest winemaking country in the world

“At the same time, Georgian wines have recently become a fixture on forward-thinking wine lists, and woe betide the sommelier who can’t tell their rkatsiteli from their saperavi (the most important Georgian white and red grape varieties, respectively). It’s precisely the rich sense of history that comes across with every sip of Georgian wines that makes the country so appealing to wine nerds” The Guardian reports.

The special technique and equipment used for producing Georgian wine, such as the practice of keeping the skins of white wines in contact with the fermenting juice for extra tannins and texture, or the use of qvevri: giant ceramic fermentation and storage vessels that are traditionally buried up to their necks in the cellar, are the main reasons of its unique taste and flavor, which you cannot compare with another kind of wine throughout the world.
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Exhibition "Georgia Cradle of Wine" in France

According to the publication, much of the current interest in Georgian wines is owed to Pheasant’s Tears, the winery founded in 2007 by American John Wurdeman and Georgian Gela Patalishvili, which has acted as an ambassador for Georgia’s traditional wine styles.

However, as the author syas, the real gem of Georgia’s producers may be Iago’s Wine, by the eponymous Iago Bitarishvili, who makes a minuscule 3000 or so bottles per year from only one white grape varietal, chinuri, which he vinifies in qvevri with skin contact (the resulting wine falls somewhere between a grippy white and a very light orange).
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Kvevri vessels in the wine cellar of Pheasant’s Tears. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“At the other end of the accessibility scale is Tbilvino, the country’s largest exporter, which produces an array of simple yet delicious wines at pleasingly modest prices,” reads the article.

There are also other leading countries in the field of winemaking in Caucasus and Black Sea area, such as Armenia, which boasts a similarly ancient winemaking tradition. The wines of Italo-Armenian producer Zorik Gharibian, bottled under the Zorah label, have attracted serious international attention. Moreover, across the Black Sea, Moldova has emerged as a fledgling wine producer with great promise thanks to its latitude (which it shares with Burgundy), the maritime climate, and the long-established presence of French grape varieties.
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Traditional Georgian qvevri

For those interested in Georgian wines, the author of the article suggests Pheasant’s Tears Chinuri, a white wine made in the traditional qvevri with exuberant fruit flavours and a lick of tannin from skin contact, which offers a perfectly charming introduction to the joys of qvevri wines.

After Georgia, the journalist of The Guardian discusses other regions in the world known for their rich winemaking traditions, in particular Lebanon and the Levant and stresses the fact that despite the difficult geopolitical situation in these regions, the wine industry here has grown significantly.

“Despite the geopolitical turmoil that has swept over Lebanon and neighbouring Syria in recent decades (this is one of the few places on earth where you might encounter live ordnance in a vineyard), the Lebanese wine industry has grown impressively – from a mere 14 in the year 2000 to 50today,” The Guardian informs its readers.

Related stories:

Why Georgia is a hotspot for natural wines – The Guardian

Qvevri Winemaking on UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

Oldest evidence of wine-making found near Tbilisi

Guinness Book of Records declares Georgian wine as world's oldest wine

How to Toast in Tbilisi: Georgian Food Is Nothing Without Supra
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