Georgia is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world. The fertile valleys and protective slopes of the South Caucasus were home to grapevine cultivation and neolithic wine production (Georgian: ღვინო, ɣvino) for at least 8000 years.[1][2][3][4] Due to millennia of winemaking and the prominent economic role it retains in Georgia to the present day, wine and viticulture are entwined with Georgia's national identity.[1]

In 2013, UNESCO added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using the Kvevri clay jars to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.[5] The best-known Georgian wine regions are in the country's east, such as Kakheti (further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli) and Kartli, but also in Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, and coastal areas like Adjara and Abkhazia.


Bronze statue from the 7th century BC discovered during archaeological excavations in the city of Vani. This statue is the statue of a Tamada, a toast master. The sheet also pictures amphora that were used at this time to carry and to stock the wine. Stamp of Georgia, 2007.
Chateau Zegaani Vineyards in Kakheti.

The roots of Georgian viticulture have been traced back by archeology to when people of the South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was nourished by experience, and from 6000 BC inhabitants of the current Georgia were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, kvevris, in which to store their wine ready for serving at ground temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some may remain entombed for up to 50 years.[6] Due to its diverse and unique microclimate, there are about 500 grape varieties in modern Georgia.

Wine vessels of every shape, size, and design have been the crucial part of pottery in Georgia for millennia. Ancient artifacts attest to the high skill of local craftsmen. Among vessels, the most ubiquitous and unique to Georgian wine-making culture are probably the Kvevris, very large earthenware vessels with an inside coat of beeswax. Not only kvevris were used to ferment grape juice and to store up wine, but also chapi and satskhao; others yet were used for drinking, such as khelada, doki, sura, chinchila, deda-khelada, dzhami, and marani.

The continuous importance of winemaking and drinking in Georgian culture is also visible in various antique works of art. Many of the unearthed silver, gold, and bronze artifacts of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC bear chased imprints of the vine, grape clusters and leaves. The State Museum of Georgia has on display a cup of high-carat gold set with gems, an ornamented silver pitcher and some other artifacts dated to the 2nd millennium BC. From classical Antiquity, Georgian museums display a cameo depicting Bacchus, and numerous sarcophagi with wine pitchers and ornamented wine cups found in ancient tombs.

From the 4th century AD, wine has gained further importance in Georgian culture due to the Christianisation of the country. According to tradition, Saint Nino, who preached Christianity in Kartli, bore a cross made from vine wood. For centuries, Georgians drank, and in some areas still drink, their wine from horns (called kantsi in Georgian) and skins from their herd animals. The horns were cleaned, boiled, and polished, creating a unique and durable drinking vessel.

During Soviet times wines produced in Georgia were very popular. In comparison with other Soviet wines from Moldavia and Crimea that were available on the Soviet market Georgian wines had been preferable for Soviets. In 1950, vineyards in Georgia occupied 143,000 acres, but by 1985 this had reached 316,000 acres due to an increase in demand. In 1985 wine production was 881,000 tons. During Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, many old Georgian vineyards were cut off.

Traditional Kvevri displayed at the United Nations office in Geneva.

As of 2016, Georgia exported 64% of its wine to Russia.[7] Georgian wine has been a contentious issue in the country's recent relationship with Russia. Political tensions with Russia have contributed to the 2006 Russian embargo of Georgian wine, with Russia claiming that Georgia produced counterfeit wine. This was the "official" reason given, but the instability of economic relations with Russia is well known, and Russia uses their economic power for political purposes.[8] Counterfeiting problems stem from mislabelling by foreign producers and falsified “Georgian Wine” labels on wines produced outside of Georgia and imported into Russia under the auspices of being Georgian produced.[8] Some winemakers in Georgia have also been known to import grapes and produce “falsified” Georgian Wine, leading then defense minister Irakli Okruashvili to note in 2006 that “[He thought] several wineries that are still producing fake wine in Gori should be closed”.[9] The shipment of counterfeit wine has been primarily channeled through Russian managed customs checkpoints in the Russian occupied Georgian territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where no inspection and regulation occurs.[8]

Georgia is optimistic that its recent Association Agreement with the European Union will expand its export markets and reduce the risk presented by any future unilateral embargoes by Russia.[10]

Viticulture in Georgia today

Georgian nursery vineyard.

Georgia ranks 2nd (in terms of volume) in grape production in the former Soviet Union behind Moldova. Its wines had a high reputation in the Soviet Union.[11] Currently, the wine is produced by thousands of small farmers (using primarily traditional techniques of wine-making), as well as certain monasteries and modern wineries.

According to the Minister of Agriculture of Georgia, wine production has increased from 13.8 million 750ml bottles in 2009 to 15.8 million bottles in 2010. In 2009, Georgia exported 10.968 million bottles of wine to 45 countries. In 2010, Georgia exported wines to Ukraine (about 7.5 million bottles), Kazakhstan (about 2 million bottles), Belarus (about 1.2 million bottles), Poland (about 870,000 bottles), and Latvia (590,000 bottles).[12]

By 2019 exports and productions had increased significantly, with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture's annual report declaring total export as "94 million bottles (0.75 liter)" to 53 countries, including increases in exports to Russia of 9% (58,384,540 bottles), to China of 2% (7,089,259 bottles), and to the United States of 48% (678,148 bottles).

Growing conditions

Georgia's territorial and climate conditions are optimal for wine-making. Extremes of weather are unusual: summers tend to be sunny and warm, and winters mild and frost-free. Natural springs abound, and the Caucasian Mountain streams drain mineral-rich water into the valleys. Georgia's moderate climate and moist air, influenced by the Black Sea, provide the best conditions for vine cultivating. The soil in vineyards is so intensively cultivated that the grapevines grow up the trunks of fruit trees eventually hanging down along the fruit when they ripen. This method of cultivation is called maglari.[13]

Georgian grape varieties

Traditional Georgian grape varieties are little known outside of the Black Sea region. Now that the wines of Eastern and Central Europe are coming to greater international awareness, grapes from this region are becoming better known. Although there are nearly 400 to choose from, only 38 varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture in Georgia:[14]

Red grapes

Saperavi grape

White grapes

Rkatsiteli grape

Georgian wine styles

See also: List of Georgian wine appellations

Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the appellation name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. Georgian wines are classified as sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling.


See also list of Georgian wine appellations.


A glass of Mukuzani

See also list of Georgian wine appellations.


Wine styles

Wine-producing regions of Georgia

Grape harvesting in Kakheti, as drawn by Grigory Gagarin.

Main article: List of Georgian wine appellations

There are five main regions of viniculture, the principal region being Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia's grapes. Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For instance, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.

See also


  1. ^ a b Miquel Hudin & Daria Kholodolina (2017), Georgia: A guide to the cradle of wine, Vinologue, p. 300, ISBN 978-1941598054
  2. ^ "Traditional winemaking in Georgia - the oldest wine in the world - Cycloscope". Archived from the original on 2015-04-15. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  3. ^ Watson, Ivan. "Unearthing Georgia's wine heritage". CNN. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  4. ^ Spilling, Michael; Wong, Winnie (2008). Cultures of The World Georgia. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7614-3033-9.
  5. ^ "UNESCO - Ancient Georgian traditional Qvevri wine-making method". Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  6. ^ "What's in a Kvevri? Georgia's Intangible Cultural Heritage". World Bank. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  7. ^ ""There were 107 million bottles of wine exported from Georgia to 62 countries in 2021 which is a historic maximum."".
  8. ^ a b c "Position Unchanged On Russian WTO Negotiations". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  9. ^ Georgia/Russia: Georgian Agriculture Minister In Moscow For Talks On Wine Ban April 13, 2006.
  10. ^ "Georgia's long road to Europe". BBC News. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  11. ^ Hornidge, Anna-Katharina; Shtaltovna, Anastasiya; Schetter, Conrad (2 February 2016). Agricultural Knowledge and Knowledge Systems in Post-Soviet Societies. ISBN 9783034320061.
  12. ^ "Выросло производство вина в Грузии". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  13. ^ Goldstein, Darra (1958). The Georgian feast: the vibrant culture and savory food of the Republic of Georgia. USA: University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 0-520-21929-5.
  14. ^ Caucasian review. Institut zur Erforschung der USSR. 1958. p. 70.
  15. ^ Tamara Dragadze. Rural Families in Soviet Georgia: A Case Study in Ratcha Province, Routledge, 1988, ISBN 0-415-00619-8, p. 7.
  16. ^ David R. Farber. Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors, University of Chicago Press, 2002, ISBN 0-226-23804-0, p. 146.
  17. ^ Glenn Randall Mack, Asele Surina. Food Culture In Russia And Central Asia, Greenwood Press, 2005, ISBN 0-313-32773-4, p. 10.