By Elza Asabashvili
Georgia is a country of a rich history created by our great ancestors. In this regard, the first thing we should mention is vine, the result of industriousness of the Georgian people, who were the first to cultivate various species of vine.
Grape – a plant domesticated in Georgia in the distant past and used to make a pleasant drink – wine, that conquered the world (of course, in a good sense), contributed to the friendship among the peoples and by and by acquired a wide range of connotations: religious, political, and economic, because since the ancient times, wine has been a commodity of international trade.
According to the Bible, Noah, the God’s favorite built the ark in the Caucasus (Giorgi Ionta Hyperioni, the researcher, has comprehensive information from the time of the Deluge to the present, i.e. from the 7th to the 8th Noah), planted a vineyard, built an altar, and sacrificed wine and a couple of turtledoves to God, got drunk and stripped himself naked. Mount Ararat, which is mentioned in the Bible, is one of the coordinates of the Ark in the Caucasus. The vine species Noah used to make wine, which he sacrificed still grows in Georgia and it is of three colors: red, black and golden.
In the ancient times, wine was upgraded to the national level; the Bible says that Melchizedek, the King of Salem blessed Abraham with bread and wine. Abraham received the first Kosher wine (in Georgian – Zedashe or holy wine) from Melchizedek. The Hebrews are blessed with Kosher wine. That was when Abraham pledged that 1/10 of everything he possessed would be offered to Melchizedek.
Wine, as a part of the national culture, dates back to the ancient times in Georgia. To the Europeans, the history of Georgia as a civilized country begins with the King Aeëtes (XVII-XVI BC) – the time when the majority of European countries did not exist. “Argonautica” by Apollonius Rhodius relates that in the Palace of the King Aeëtes, Argonauts saw vine tendrils entwined around the columns and wine fountains (pp. 3,220-224).
In Georgia, there was a tradition of Zedashe and a wine cellar cult. Special attention was paid to the winemaking technologies, which subsequently came to be used in medicine. Along with “Golden Fleece”, Medea took to Greece preparations made from wine. As is well known, 50:50 mixture of spring water and black wine (grapes are black, wine made from it is ruby color) prolongs life, and removes toxins from body.
During the vintage time, Vindemiatrix – the star of vineyard care, grape-harvesting and storage looks upon our homeland. Georgian viticulturists called the star the “Star of Qvevri (a large clay wine jar)”.
Wine fermented in a vine barrel was called “angelic wine”. According to the Bible, when Abraham and Melchizedek met, Melchizedek gave Abraham the “angelic wine” to drink.
When Georgians wanted to transform the vine into I, II, III, IV … IX heaven wine, the vine / heaven relationship depended on the depth of vine root in the soil. The ancient Georgians were aware of nine heavens. There are Georgian folk songs about the heavens. Numbering of the Heavens depended on the planting depth of the vine root: the 1sttHeaven -1×49, the 2nd Heaven -2×49,……9th heaven – 9×49; Vineyard root was measured by the king’s cubits (49 cm), the 9th heaven vine root was 4 meters deep in the ground, and was therefore the 9th heaven wine came out.
For the wine to obtain healing properties, copper nails were used, which were driven in the land to a span depth from the vine roots (nail was of span length too) – five nails on five sides of vine, so that five-pointed star was formed allowing vineyard to absorb excess amount of copper. Wine produced from copper-rich black grapes was used for strengthening the health of premature children and treatment of anemia.
In paganism, the elders used the alchemical secrets of winemaking. The technology was called “alchemical marriage”. Certain plants were added to grape juice (machari). One of such plants, which is from the family of elderberry called “Pera-pera”, was added to machari in secret doses. The mixture was fermented and medicinal wine came out, which was used for 40 day treatment of severe liver diseases, gall bladder and gastrointestinal illness.
In the Georgian paganism, viticulturists defended themselves by going to the sanctuary, isolating themselves, keeping silence, only singing, talking and pronouncing incantations to vine plants. A vine seedling was watered with two bowls: a silver bowl was used when planting vines in the evening, while a gold bowl early in the morning. Jukhra Nadiradze, archeologist found these bowls during the excavations in the village of Sairkhe.