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 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 people and time by time 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)”.
It is noteworthy that there is no “vine cross cult” in any country other than Georgia.
In Georgia, the church doors and barrels were made from timber of a single solid vine. A groove for sanctified, holy water was also made from vine.
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 cms), the 9th heaven vine root was 4 meters deep in the ground, and was therefore the 9th heaven wine came out.
Silver anchor and bell were made with a special golden section, which had a particular sound frequency (it was tuned to La sound, which is called the tuning fork frequency); the anchor was immersed in wine, tied to a silver bell on the other side with a gold chain; winemakers hung up the anchor and bell on the bar across the pitcher top, sang songs and rang the bell. Thus, wine was prepared for its journey – it didn’t become turbid anymore and never turned sour. This sort of wine was sent to the sunken city of Dioscuria, where the vessels in which the wine was transported, are still buried. Some of the vessels have been found. There were cases when amphorae were not broken. When anglers opened them, they saw that the wine was not spoiled. Thus, we can say that in ancient Georgia, viticulture and winemaking were taken to an academic level. These two sectors were based on agriculture. However, there were some kinds of vine that intersected with horticulture (vines entwined round the trees). Vine grown on amber-colored fig trees, from which amber-colored wine was made, was called “Royal babalovani”; it is referred to in Kind David’s Psalm 79,11-13; black grapes grown on black fig-trees, the wine of which is dark red was another variety. Pergola of amber-colored and black grapes was called “Samepo Salkhinebeli” (Royal Purgatory), which is depicted in a painting by Pirosmany.
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, an archeologist found these bowls during the excavations in the village of Sairkhe.
In Georgia, there was a rite of “giving water to wine”: when wine dried up a little, “Holy water” was added to it. The rite was performed by the high priest, called Megvinetukhutsesi in the paganism and a Bishop in modern Christianity.
Monks ( a monk – “beri” in Georgian) cultivated vine. Iberia was the old name of Spain and Eastern Georgia was also called Iberia in ancient times.
The Georgian Chronicles mention Bostan-city, on the plateau of which a 30-person prehistoric stone winepress was discovered.
A lot of materials concerning vine and vineyard are available in Georgia:
1. The national viticulture and winemaking technologies have preserved to this day.
2. The national experience spread across nations, languages and tribes;
3. The archaeological artifacts related to viticulture and winemaking;
One of the examples is Vardsia – town of 3000 monks, where wine flew through clay pipes to qvevris installed in stone in each cell.
We have a lot of materials and artifacts, which relate to not only vine and wine. However, no field research has been conducted as yet. We will be glad if you honor this nation of ancient culture by setting up an office, so that we could promote the ancient methods of Georgian winemaking. In case of interest and funding, we can offer you plenty of materials and artifacts, which will allow you to see from a new angle not only Georgian history, but that of the world at large.
The question arises “Why are drama and politics, religions and wars mixed in the history of wine? And why should it have so many varieties? Only the history can explain it,”- says the well-known researcher and wine writer Hugh Johnson.