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Monday, July 15, 2013

Chief technologist of KTW (Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking) comments on Georgian wine history

15.07.2013. After seven years of embargo, Georgian wines and brandies are returning to the Russian market. Since June, 538,6 thousand bottles have been supplied to Russia. These are wines made by such companies as KTW, Dugladze Wine House, Batoni, Marniskari and GWS.

Giorgi Kiknadze, KTW's Chief Technologist, told about Georgian wines. According to him, “it is estimated that Georgian wines have existed in the world for as long as the people of Georgia itself – for  6-7 thousand years already. Georgian wine is not only a majestic drink; it is figuratively a capital letter in the alphabet of Georgian culture and spirituality. Eastern Georgia, Kakheti, is the center of Georgian wine, which gave the world its own technology of wine production – wines of the Kakheti type and spirits, chacha and brandy. One of the peaks of Georgian wine production rightfully belongs to Georgian brandy. Georgian brandy production came in the wake of the general rise of agriculture of the Russian Empire”.

So, in 1865 the industrialist Georgi Bolqvadze organized brandy production in Kutaisi. A radical change in this case occurred 20 years later, when the prominent public figure, scientist, chemist and philanthropist David Sarajishvili opened in Tiflis [Tbilisi - HN] a central repository of alcohol and three years later organized the first brandy production not only in the Caucasus but also in the whole of Russian Empire. The same plants after that were built in Dagestan, Armenia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. Sarajishvili’s enterprises were a real empire, taking a monopoly position in the Russian brandy market.

In 1913, its production was officially called "Georgian brandy" and received numerous international awards. In addition, the company was granted the status of a supplier to the Court of His Imperial Majesty. Research on the chemistry of wine, botany and soil science was actively carried out. The soil of different regions of Georgia was carefully studied,  and varieties of grapes close in composition to the classic French cognac grades – UgniBlanc, FolleBlanche, Colombard – were selected. Experiments were conducted on alcohol exposure to Iberica Georgian oak. It turned out that indigenous Georgian grape varieties such as Tsolikauri, Chinuri and Rkatsiteli let make light, fresh and aromatic alcohols, which are great for aging in oak barrels. The achievements of recent years have only strengthened the authority of Georgian brandy. In other words, the history of Georgian brandy and the Georgian school of excellence established over the last two centuries have gained a well-deserved fame.

The viticulture of Georgia has a number of characteristic features. The main ones include the presence of a large number, more than 500 native varieties, as well as micro-areas characterized by peculiar microclimate and soil, which has left a bright mark on the taste and variety of wines produced. In terms of total precipitation the territory of Georgia is divided into two parts: these is the East, 300 mm of rain per year, and the West, more than 1000 mm.

The main areas of vineyards are located in 4 places - Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti and Racha-Lechkhumi. All the vineyards are vaccinated against phylloxera. To understand the potential of Georgia, this is a very common question about wine, let me give you just a couple of numbers from the exponential statistics of the Soviet period. The total area used for wine production was, in 1985, the year known by prohibition law, 125,000 hectares, of which 113,000 were fruit-bearing. Gross yield in 1981-1985 was 786,000 tons, or 6.7 tons per hectare. And in 1985 there was really a sudden unprecedented boom – 915,000 tons, or 8 tons per hectare.

“The cost of grapes in Georgia has always been higher than the average for the USSR. This is a very important factor. And it differed by more than 1.5 times because of objectively difficult agricultural conditions, land topography and a capricious climate. Currently, with comparable yield per hectare, the area figures themselves are still lower than they were in the past, but the quality control of wine and grapes has become much higher”, Giorgi Kiknadze says.

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