Often when people think about the history of wine, they associate it with countries like France and Italy whose wine production stems back to Roman times. A region that passes under the radar is a country in the Caucasus (the land between the Caspian Sea and Black Sea) of Eurasia called Georgia. Georgia is a relatively small country filled with mountain ranges and forested terrain that sits nestled underneath Russia and just North of Turkey. Although small, it is an important country to be aware of because of its significant history in being considered the ‘birthplace of wine’. Dating back to 6000 BC, archaeologists have unearthed qvevris (terracotta clay pots used for storage and fermentation of wine) in the South Caucasus. Georgians discovered viticulture when they would store grape juice in shallow pits underground for the winter only to access it at a later date and find it had been turned into wine. A qvevri could be stored and sealed for up to 50 years, a method which Georgians still use today for production in limited amounts. Their wines were known as having a higher quality than those in surrounding regions, but that reputation came to a halt in the late 1900’s when the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev implemented a ‘dry law’. This law was somewhat of a prohibition which increased the prices on alcohol and restricted times in which it could be sold. Since then Georgia’s wine industry has slowly been recovering and now boasts over 1,000 wineries, many of which are independent or family run. In 2018 alone Georgia was able to produce and export almost half a million bottles of wine to the United States of America. The climate in Georgia is quite consistent with mild winters and comfortable summers which allows for optimal grape growing conditions. Because of this, Georgia is home to over 500 wine varieties including ones that are currently rare and endangered. When touring old wineries it is common for tourists to visit the many ruins of Georgia including Uplistsikhe (ruins from the Early Iron Age) and Vardzia (an Ancient cave monastery).
3.731 million (2018)
69,700 sq km (26,911 sq mi)