General Description / Cultural Significance
Georgia is a wine drinking country, and grapes, Vitis, emit a common scent that pervades the lives of Georgians. Since ancient times, the region has been a grape culture that highly values the vining, flowering plant, and uses it to make wine. The country is home to 500 varieties of indigenous grapes. Many vineyards in the country protect endangered vines that are not found elsewhere in the world at all. The National Grape Collection, funded by the government, is located in the country, and in part seeks to rediscover lost varieties of grape and preserve them. Resurrecting old varieties for commercial export has become more popular. Both red and white varieties of grapes are grown to produce high quality wine. Grapes are one of the most esteemed fruits in Georgia and a source of many natural phytochemicals that, besides their role in food and drink, treat various diseases. Resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory, is one of its most highly valued biologically active constituents.
Georgia is especially known for kveri wine, fermented in clay vessels. This wine is frequently made from Saparevi grapes, which are genetically similar to wild grapes. The fermentation process with skins and often stems complicates the flavor of the resulting wine. They are also known to produce off-dry wines. Hundreds of small farmers produce the beverage these days, using both traditional and newer methods. Wines can be sweet, semi-sweet, dry, semi-dry, sparkling, or fortified. They have become popular recently, both in the country and as exports.
Climate Change/Conservation Status
In 2012, the World Bank released a study analyzing the potential impact of climate change on the economy and agriculture of Georgia, writing that the country is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with over half of employment in agriculture, which plays a significant role in the country’s GDP. Agriculture is a climate-sensitive sector, so the ways in which the rural population make a living are vulnerable. The Global Wine Index has identified the Kakheti and Racha regions of Georgia as two of the most at-risk regions due to rising temperatures and abhorrent weather patterns, bringing hail and frost. In an area where the history and culture of the country’s many fertile, wine-producing valleys are economically tied to cultivated grape vines, climate change is already taking its toll on the income of a growing number of households. In a country known for their unique grape varieties, the longest wine-making tradition in the world, and excellent climate conditions, the distinctive aroma and taste from their traditional productions are now changing.