Was 6,000 BC a good wine year? Possibly, but for now it looks like only Georgia knows for sure.
Currently Italy, Spain, France and USA are the largest wine producers in the world, but Georgia is the oldest and one of the most famous. The earliest evidence of winemaking there dates back 8,000 years, and Mamuka Tsereteli, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council’s Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and president of the America-Georgia Business Council, said wine has been an important part of Georgian history since .
Tsereteli, who is also an associate professor at American University and a longtime promoter of Georgian wines, spoke on the geography, geology, history and cultural background of wine in the Europe-Asia nation for the new program during a series of opening sessions on Thursday for Georgian Studies at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
“Georgian winemaking,” he said after the event, “is deeply rooted in the spiritual and social life, legends and traditions of the ancient country. Nestled between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black and Caspian Seas, Georgia is a place where the origins of wine, the uninterrupted tradition of winemaking in Qvevri and the unique varietal specificity have evolved into the elegance of modern winemaking.”
Qveris are the egg-shaped clay vessels still used today for making and storing wine in traditional Georgian winemaking. The organic residues of Early Neolithic wine were found on fragments of vessels similar in shape to qveris at two sites in Georgia by an international group of scientists, who reported their discovery in 2017.
Following Tsereteli’s presentation, Stephen Jones, Director of the Program for Georgian Studies, conducted a question and answer session on the political and economic importance of Georgian wine. “Wine plays an important role in Georgia’s economy… and is an important part of international trade and partnerships with other states,” he said afterwards.
Wine is one of Georgia’s top exports, and the nation shipped a record 107 million bottles to 62 nations in 2021, according to government figures, including a million to the United States.
“Georgian wine is fundamental to understanding the sources of Georgian identity and cultural production – an element of Georgia’s soft power in the world today,” Jones said. “Georgian wine and food have gained worldwide recognition in the last decade and are elements that contribute to the global recognition of Georgia… In other words, wine is not just about alcohol content, it is about big money, identity and international relations . ”
The lecture and discussion ended with a tasting of Georgian wines: Dilao Saperavi, Dilao Rkatsiteli-Mtsvane and Teliani Tsolikouri. Davis Fellows, students, faculty, staff and visitors mingled with wine professionals, Georgian filmmakers and Georgian chess legend Nana Alexandria.
The new Davis Center program aims to advance scholarship about Georgia and the South Caucasus by promoting research, supporting students, and hosting various scientific and cultural events, including academic conferences, lectures, film screenings, and panels.