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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saakashvili has left Georgia without wine?

by Nato Velia

14.04.2013. Many people associate Georgia with wine and grapes. Culture of growing grapes and making wine here is so old that no one can say exactly when it was born. In Georgian culture there are masterpieces of folk poetry praising the vine, comparing it with raising a beloved child. In the villages, people who had a well-kept vineyard, enjoyed special respect. The very international word "wine" origins from the Georgian word gvino. However, in recent years the area of ​​vineyards in Georgia has declined sharply - from 156 thousand hectares to 69 thousand.

The first mass destruction of vineyards in Georgia is related to the name of bloody conqueror of Shah Abbas. History tells us that every his invasion of the country was accompanied by cutting vineyards.

But there were other times when as part of one big country Georgia by Moscow's order produced a million tons of grapes. Now, the figure has reduced to 150 thousand tons. The reason is that during a few years the vineyards has been ruthlessly cut down.

Although this process began in the Soviet era, when the Kakhetians were ordered to plant watermelons instead of grapes, with much regret they recall the years of independent Georgia; and after the change of government in October 2012, Kakheti farmers are bitterly regretting of what has been done. This happens due to a hope that the demand for grapes will grow again. Now they are trying to restore the destroyed vineyards. Although some experts still believe that 60-70 thousand hectares is enough for both local consumption and for export.

Since 1990, Georgia is almost not growing grapes in new areas and does not vaccinate the vines. In Kakheti, there are already no greenhouse and young plants farms. Georgians had to leave their vineyards and go abroad to find work, and those who have remained in the country had to cut down the vineyards and to plant watermelons and other crops in their place.

A student David Gviniashvili: "I'm completing my studies at the Institute and return to my village of Tsnori. My goal is to revive vineyard of my ancestors.

My father made a mistake by cutting down the vineyard, but at that time he had no other choice, he had to provide family. But now, after I told him about my idea, he is immensely happy. This is the best I can do."

Farmers believe that the dirty deed started by the conquerors like Shah Abbas was successfully continued by the government under Saakashvili. They forced the Georgians to cut down their vineyards. For what purpose? Yes, just manicured vineyards did not pose a source of profit. The state purchased the grapes for a penny. Russian market was closed.

We have talked to several farmers. Some speak with great regret about the destruction of vineyards, others are happy that they have saved their vineyards and raised them as own child, and if the government would help them the grapes would soon become main source of livelihood.

"I am agricultural worker, I had nowhere to go," says a resident of the village of Velistsikhe, Gurjaani region, Tengiz Tukhashvili. "We had a very large vineyard. We had really hard times, we sold the grapes for a penny, and the vineyard required hard work. We worked hard all the year round, and eventually we appeared in a lose-lose situation. Several families in the village decided to cut down the vineyards and planted watermelons in their place. At the time, I often saw my grandfather in my dreams who blamed me for the cutting of the vineyard, and I was very nervous, but I had to somehow provide family. I've heard they are now going to restore young plants farms, and the government will distribute the young vines to us. My work is caring for the vines, and I will once again grow a vineyard. I have three sons, they are my assistance, and the soul of my grandfather can finally find peace."

We saw a boundless hope in the eyes of Gocha Datiashvili: "If what they say justifies, then our work would be appreciated. For me, the vineyard is everything. I have not cut my vineyard even when I could not sell the grapes, I kept taking care of it. If we are wine country, we all need to behave accordingly."

There is a huge number of farmers who are going to start planting vines from the ground, but, as we noted earlier, there is no greenhouse and young plants farms. Fortunately, farmers are engaged in their breeding, and if the government provides them a little help, vineyards would necessarily revive in Kakheti.

"Georgia is a country of vineyards. Former government wanted to cultivate olives and nuts here. My Rkatsiteli grapes occupied 3 hectares of land. To this day, I am really sorry that I had to cut it down. They say they are going to restore young plants farms, but the vine will take a few years to yield. I had to plant watermelons instead of the vineyard and I expect a good harvest. Maybe I'll engage in grapes cultivation," regretfully says one of the farmers.

The fact is that Georgia is wine country. The country has the cult of the vine. If the government helps the farmers, and the grapes grow in Kakheti again, everyone would only benefit from this - both the guests and the hosts.

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