Mesopotamia might be the cradle of civilization, but how civilized can you be without wine? For that, look no further than the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where archaeologists generally agree wine probably got its start approximately 8,000 years ago.
Evidence suggests that early Georgians in the South Caucasus would bury containers of grapes in the ground over the winter and dig up the fermented result in the spring. Archaeological discoveries dating from around 6,000 B.C. show the incorporation of grape symbols in art and sculpture, and wine drinking items were commonly placed in burial sites. Traditional Georgian wine is still made this way, in huge earthenware containers known as "qvevri" (or "kvevri").
Today, Georgian wine isn't as famous as that of Italy or France, but it gets exported all over the world and is particularly popular in the U.S. With some 500 grape varieties, the country boasts a wide range of famous reds and whites, as well as its trademark orange or amber-colored wines. Kakheti (which includes the Telavi and Kvareli micro-regions) is Georgia's foremost wine region, while Adjara, Imereti, Kartli, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti are also centers of wine production. Although most Georgian wines are mass-produced these days, some individual farmers still create wine through traditional methods.
A toast to Georgia:
- Georgians don't call their country Georgia; instead, it is known as Sakartvelo.
- One of Georgia's most popular tourist attractions is Vardzia, a 6,000-room city carved out of caves.
- Georgia has 12 climate zones, ranging from subtropical to permanent glaciers. For its size, it is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world.