Georgia – The Birthplace of Wine


Is Georgia the birthplace of wine

Georgia, a country nestled at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, is widely recognized as the birthplace of wine, boasting an unbroken winemaking tradition stretching over 8,000 years.

This rich heritage, combined with unique grape varieties and ancient methods, positions Georgia not just as a historical figure in viticulture but as a living museum of winemaking history. Georgia’s claim to being the birthplace of wine is well-founded, resting on solid archaeological findings, unique traditions like the qvevri, and an array of indigenous grape varieties.

More than just a historical curiosity, Georgian wine is a vibrant and dynamic part of the country’s cultural identity, continuing to evolve while staying rooted in its ancient origins. For wine enthusiasts and historians alike, Georgia offers a fascinating glimpse into the origins of winemaking and a taste of some of the most unique wines in the world.

georgian wines

Qvevri – a testament to ancient winemaking

Central to Georgia’s winemaking identity is the qvevri, a large, egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for fermenting, aging, and storing wine. The inside is coated with beeswax. The traditional method for making wine involves burying the filled qvevri underground, which maintains a constant temperature, allowing for the natural fermentation of the grapes. The qvevri normally has a wooden lid and the soil in which it is burried helps seal and protect the vessel.
The use of qvevri is a practice passed down through generations, remaining largely unchanged for thousands of years and recognized by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


Georgia’s claim to being the birthplace of wine is supported by archaeological evidence discovered across Georgia. The most compelling evidence comes from the region of Gadachrili Gora, where excavations have unearthed ceramic jars dating back to 6,000 BC. These jars, which were used for fermenting, storing, and serving wine, contain residual compounds that confirm the presence of wine, making them the earliest known evidence of winemaking in the world.

It is believed that it was people in the South Caucasus that first discovered that wild grape juice left buried in a shallow pit through the winter can turn into wine. From this, grape growing and more advanced wine making developed.

Wine vessels have been a crucial part of pottery in Georgia for thousands of years and they come in many different sizes, shapes and designs. The kveri described further up in this article is definitely not the only type of vessel historically used in Georgian wine making, wine storing and wine drinking. There is for instance the chapi and satskhao, which were used to ferment grape juice and store wine, and the marani and sura which were vessels from which to drink the wine.

The important of wine and wine-making in Georgia is also visible in old works of art. Plenty of bronze, silver and gold objects unearthed here – and dated to the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC – are adorned with imprints of vines, grape leaves and grape clusters. If you visit the State Museum of Georgia, do not miss seeing the 2nd millennium BC high-carat gold cup adorned with gems.

From the classical Antiquity era, Georgia’s heritage includes sarcophagi with wine pitchers and ornamented wine cups have been found in graves from this period.

Drinking wine from a golden cup such as the one mentioned above was, of course, not for the masses. There is an old and strong tradition in Georgia of drinking wine from boiled and polished horns and from vessels made from the skin of herd animals.

The many grape varieties

Georgia is home to over 500 indigenous grape varieties, a testament to the country’s biodiversity and many microclimates. Varieties such as Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, and Mtsvane are among the most notable, offering a palette of flavors that are distinctively Georgian and not found anywhere else in the world. This diversity allows Georgian wines to offer a wide range of tastes and styles, from robust reds to delicate whites.

Georgian wine today

In recent years, Georgian wine has experienced a renaissance on the global stage, with increased international interest in both its traditional qvevri wines and those made using modern techniques. Winemakers in Georgia are keen to blend ancient practices with contemporary winemaking knowledge, producing wines that respect tradition while appealing to modern palates.

The internationally best-known wine regions in modern Georgia are found in the eastern part of the country, e.g. Kakheti (including Kvareli and Telavi) and Kartli. This does not mean that wine is only produced in the east; there are for instance wine being grown and made in Imereti, Kvemo Svaneti and Racha-Lechkhumi too, and even in some places near the Black Sea such as Adjara and Abkhazia.

Wine tourism in Georgia

Georgia’s wine regions, including Kakheti, Imereti, and Racha, have become significant destinations for wine tourism. Visitors are drawn not only by the quality of the wine but also by the opportunity to immerse themselves in Georgia’s winemaking culture and learn about the history of wine. Wine tours often include visits to vineyards and qvevri wineries, tastings of both traditional and modern wines, and the chance to participate in the annual grape harvests.

Wine export from Georgia

During the Soviet era, wine from Georgia was very popular in places such as Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and Georgian wines were held in higher esteem on the Soviet market than wines from many other parts of the Eastern Bloc, e.g. Moldavia and the Crimean peninsula. Between 1950 and 1985, the combined area of the Georgian vineyards grew from 143,000 acres to 316,000 acres.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia became the main importer of Georgian wines, and as late as 2016 Georgia still exported 64% av its wine to Russia. This trade has not been without issues though, due to the ongoing political tension between Russia and Georgia. In 2006, Russia imposed an embargo on Georgian wine, partly due to problems with counterfeit wine from Georgia.

Due to the tender relationship between Russia and Georgia, the latter has been very eager to increase exports to other parts of the world, especially to the nearby European Union market, and thereby become less reliant on the Russian market. There is currently an Association Agreement in place between Georgia and the European Union that will make it easier for Georgia to expand its wine export to the membership countries.