Exhibition dedicated to Qvevri Wine history

15 September 2011

On September 15th The Georgian National Museum, Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia presents the Exhibition dedicated to Qvevri Wine history.

Georgian woods still preserve wild vine (Vitis sylvestris), which gives us reason for claiming that domestication of vine could have occurred locally. Archaeobotanical data show that it really happened here: there have been excavated seeds of already domesticated vine which are the earliest in the world and belong to Neolithic epoch. The agriculture of this period on the territory of Georgia is based on a wide assortment of cultivated plants which had already been differentiated botanically: presence of highly developed wheat, barley, leguminous plants attest to a long pre-history of productive economy (radiocarbon dates: 7662-7868 cal BP; 7690-7775 cal BP). Vine seeds have been recovered at the sites of Bronze age in Georgia in the IV-II millennia BC. From the II millennium BC Paleobotanical data provide table sorts of vine as well which implies a further stage of evolution of vine.

Georgia is distinguished by diversity of cultivated sorts of vine (about 500 wine and table sorts of vine are known in Georgia), among them there are diclinous sorts as well, which represents the intermediate stage between wild and cultivated vine in the process of evolution: unlike wild vine, the absolute majority of cultivated sorts of vine are monoecious. Names of Georgian sorts of vine are usually related to the microzone where a certain sort is common, which evidences its local provenance.

The history of viticulture and wine-making is reflected in Georgian language and in material and spiritual culture of Georgia (archaeology, ethnography, mythology, cult, art, folklore). Georgian language represents rich original terminology associated with viticulture and wine-making. The word “wine” has entered numerous languages from Georgian.

Georgia is the only country which has preserved archaic methods of making, keeping and consuming wine, which have been lost in other centers of wine-making. Here are displayed household tools connected with viticulture and wine-making (spade, hoe, secateurs, brush, long handled jug for taking wine out of a pithos - orshimo); vessels for pressing grapes and keeping wine (winepresses - sacnaxeli, sakajavi, vessel for collecting grape juice - taghari, pithoi of different sizes - churi kvevri, koco), table and drinking vessels for wine (jar, phiala, bowl, cup, rhyton, etc.). Each of the mentioned artifacts has a long and continuous tradition in Georgia.

From ancient times vine tree and wine in Georgia have been closely related to the cult and religious rituals. It was true for Georgia in both pagan (an altar in a wine-cellar, pithoi for ritual purposes, ritual wine drinking, pagan ritual texts and actions) and Christian times. Grapes, grape juice and its products occupy an important place in the diet of the Georgians.