In the land where the first traces of wine-making date back to 8000 years ago, scholars of the University of Milan have discovered a variety of grapevines with a strong resistance to downy mildew, one of the most serious diseases for these crops. The discovery now paves the way for establishing stronger grape varieties and reducing the use of chemicals. The study is published in Scientific Reports.
The importance of the Caucasus vine for the history of oenology is known. In Georgia, in fact, recent discoveries set at 8000 years ago the first traces of vinification,con uno spostamento di 600-1000 anni indietro rispetto a precedenti ritrovamenti, in particolare in Iran. Now, the results of a research carried out by the University of Milan, published in the Scientific Reports of the group Nature, show that the vine germplasm of Georgian origin possesses unique characteristics in terms of resistance to diseases and in particular to the most important disease of the vine, the downy mildew of wine.
Vitis vinifera varietà Mgaloblishvili (Georgia)_2
The research, funded by the University research development plan, coordinated by Silvia Toffolatti and Gabriella De Lorenzis, researchers from the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (DiSAA) of the State University led to the discovery of a rare system of defense against the downy mildew in the variety of Vitis vinifera Mgaloblishvili. The discovery now paves the way for the establishment of varieties of disease-resistant vineand at the same time suitable for producing quality wines. They will contribute to reducing the use of anti-asthosporic chemicals which, up to now, represent the main source of environmental pollution in the sector.
The researchers explain: “ the publication must be considered one of the most important results obtained from the ten-year collaboration in the field of protection and promotion of genetic resources of the vine undertaken in several international projects, including the COST action FA1003 (East-West Collaboration for Grapevine Diversity Exploration and Mobilization of Adaptive Traits for Breeding) coordinated by Prof Osvaldo Failla (DiSAA) between 2010 and 2014.
Moreover, the obtained results are part of the researches carried out at DiSAA to find suitable solutions to overcome the challenges of modern viticulture (sustainability and climate change) and that currently focus on the search for varieties capable of defending themselves from other plant diseases, in some cases, incurable”.
The study resulted from the collaboration of researchers from the Department of Biosciences, of the scholars of the Edmund Mach Foundation (FEM) of San Michele all'Adige (TN) and of David Maghradze, researcher of the Scientific Research Center of Agriculture and of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Biosystems Engineering of the Georgian Technical Universityof Tbilisi.
Link to the research: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-30413-w
CONTACTS: Silvia Laura Toffolatti (02 50316776) e Gabriella De Lorenzis (02 50316557), Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (DiSAA)
By Wine Tourism Association
The country of Georgia is recognized as the world’s birthplace of domesticated wine, with a consistent historical record dating to 6,000BC. At the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Georgia is considered the homeland of viticulture and winemaking. New levels of investment have allowed Georgian producers to improve quality through modernization and innovation while reviving the region’s ancient winemaking traditions.
Discover the wine region of Kakheti and Alazani Valley, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, with their charming small towns and bucolic countryside.
Activities and sights included:
- Visit to family of Qvevri makers
- Visit Ikalto monastery complex and the first Qvevri school academy located in the town of Ikalto
- Wine tasting at artisanal winery
- Delicious local cheese tasting and the lunch at the farm
- Wine tasting at family winery
- Wine tasting and a visit in the wine museum at the premium wine company
- Wine tasting at Aleksandre Chavchavadze House Museum in Tsinandali
- Mineral water
- All transportation
- English speaking guide
The rugged province of Kakheti is known as Ground Zero for Georgian wine, producing 68% of the country’s wine, with 75% of grapes grown for production. Divided into sub-appellations, it’s home to 14 of the 18 Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs).
Since ancient times Georgia has been known as a country of grapes and wine. Wine production is hardly imaginable without a Qvevri − a handmade, egg-shaped clay vessel that’s buried in the ground up to its collar. Wine-making in these traditional vessels goes back at least 8000 years and is still practiced today. This ancient method is considered one of Georgia’s many cultural achievements and treasures. Wine plays a central role in the social lives of Georgians. It’s considered a crucial part of hospitality − a valuable offering in the facilitation of goodwill and friendship.
The tour starts with a visit to the studio of a Qvevri maker, where you’ll see Qvevri created by the hands of the true masters.
Next is a visit to the Ikalto monastery complex, founded in the 6th century and where one of the oldest wine schools was founded in the Middle Ages. Visitors will see the remnants of the once existing wine culture that had developed within the walls of this spectacular place.You’ll also pass by the new Qvevri school and academy.
Then a jaunt to the small village for a visit to the artisanal winery, overlooking the Alazani Valley and snow-capped Caucasus Mountains. This boutique winery produces all of their wines in the Qvevri and are known for their dry red and white wines from different indigenous Georgian varietals, using natural farming techniques and a low-interference vilification process. You’ll meet the cheese maker and sample the rare tasty cheeses made on-site. Afterwards, a delicious lunch made by the farm owners will be served.
Next up is a visit a small family-owned winery focusing on producing high quality wines made in Qvevri. Family’s fourth generation winemakers and a rising star in Georgian winemaking.
Visit to premium wine company, which sits in the appellation of Tsinandali within Georgia’s largest wine region.
Winery Shumi grows grapes in and around Tsinandali on the right bank of the Alazani River where the winery is located. The word, ‘Shumi’, means genuine, undiluted wine and in this case theirs is made only from their own fruit grown in unique micro-zones, famous for their geographical locations, climate, and wine-making history. Shumi owns a small vine nursery of 294 unique and 93 foreign grape varieties. A little museum will reveal some interesting old artifacts about Georgian wine culture.
And finally, travel to Aleksandre Chavchavadze House Museum in Tsinandali. Chavchavadze was the first Georgian nobleman to produce and bottle Georgian wine according to European methods. Built in 1835, this winery contains 16,500 bottles of wine, including a bottle of Saperavi wine from 1839− the first harvest at Tsinandali. Production in this vineyard continues, with the highly regarded, dry, white
Tsinandali wine still produced.
Not included: Flights, travel insurance, services & beverages except described.
For more details and booking:
Georgian Wine Tourism Association; Address: 9, Machabeli Str., 0105, Tbilisi, Georgia.
email@example.com / www.wine-tourism.org
In order to effectively approach the vine history, it is necessary to go back to 60 million years ago, in the hot Eocene, which saw the appearance of the genus Vitis to which the domestic vine belongs. The subsequent events led the genus Vitis to be composed of more than 60 species; among them, Vitis vinifera sylvestris, wild ancestor of the domestic vine, established itself in Western Asia and in the Euro-Mediterranean area. Two and a half million years ago the ice ages of the Quaternary began and during those ages the grapevine, a thermophilous species, managed to survive in the coastal strip overlooking the Mediterranean and in sheltered areas located south of large mountain ranges (the Great Caucasus, the Alps, the Pyrenees). It is there that the human beings who first inhabited our territories during the last ice age came into contact with the vine, consuming their fruits, perhaps producing the first fermented beverages, ancestors of wine.
Eleven thousand years ago the last glaciation (Würm glaciation) ended and the mild phase began, known as the Holocene, which saw the birth of agriculture with domesticationof herbaceous plants even today essential for food safety (wheat, barley, rice, corn, sorghum and various legumes such as pea, chickpea, broad bean, etc.) that took place around 10-11 thousand years ago.
We know less about the vine and one of the questions that the researchers were asked is: how many millennia ago the first wine dates back to? Professor Patrick McGovern (scientific director of the biomolecular archeology project for cooking, fermented beverages and health of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia) dedicated a very original study to this problem. In 1996 he published a studyon Nature affirming that the traces of vinification found in jars discovered in HajjiFiruzTepe on Zagros mountains (Iran) dated back to 7000- 7400 years ago.
And here we come to the ongoing research, funded by Georgia Government, coordinated by the Georgian researcher David Maghradzee, which involved an international research team including researchers from USA, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Israel and Georgia. In particular, the Italian research group is made up of experts in viticulture and in the history of agriculture at the University of Milan (Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) and the Lombardo Museum of Agriculture History of Sant'Angelo Lodigiano.
The research has investigated the traces of vinification in archaeological remains excavated in the sites of Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora dated to the Neolithic (about 8000 years ago). These sites, located about 50 kilometers south of the modern capital of Tbilisi, are located in the floodplain of the Kura River and belong to the so-called "Shulaveri-Shomutepe" (SSC) culture, known by archaeologists, which affects not only Georgia but also several sites of Azerbaijan and of the Armenian plateau.
The results of the research were published in an article of the authoritative international journal PNAS(Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences of America) and available at the website www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/11/07/1714728114.full.
In particular, the work highlights that:
- The first traces of vinification can be dated to 8000 years ago, moving the event of first vinification 600-1000 years back from previous discoveries.
- The climate of the investigated area was then fully suitable for the vine thanks to a climate change that led to a rainier and milder phase compared to the previous cold-arid phase. More specifically, paleoclimatic analyzes showed a climate that, due to thermal and pluviometric characteristics, was very similar to the current one.
- Finally, it is recalled that such ancestral events of vinificationcan be found in the myth of Dionysus and in the biblical story of Noé, who produces the first wine after the end of the flood (and Mount Ararat, where, according to tradition, the Arca would have run aground, is just 200 km far from the excavation area.
The Italian research group has contributed to the contextualisation of the presence of the vine in the archaeological survey area at a climatic and biological level. The group itself is now investigating the effects that climate variability has had in the phases following the first vinification event and up to the present day. These results will soon be the subject of a scientific publication currently being drafted.
MCGOVERN, P., JALABADZE, M., BATIUK, S., CALLAHAN, M. P., SMITH, K. E., HALL, G. R., KVAVADZE, E., MAGHRADZE, D., RUSISHVILI, N., BOUBY, L., FAILLA, O., COLA, G., MARIANI, L.,BOARETTO, E., BACILIERI, R., THIS, P., WALES, N.,LORDKIPANIDZE, D. (2017). Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201714728. doi:10.1073/pnas.1714728114
Osvaldo Failla – firstname.lastname@example.org – cell. 333 1728767
Luigi Mariani – email@example.com – cell. 329 7027077
Gabriele Cola – firstname.lastname@example.org – cell. 339 8615441
Georgia is one of the places of vine domestication, perhaps the oldest, and witnesses its presence in a relatively small area of dozens of autochthonous vines (more than 520), whose history has been lost in the mists of time. In the land of ancient Colchis, wine has always had decisive identity connotations, as shown by the archaeological finds and the flourishing trade that the Phoenicians gave life to and named the corner of land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea “Land of the wine”. In the local iconography, the Tree of Life is a bare tree intertwined with vine plants. And to confirm the strong bond with the land, here the vines take the name of the territories and municipalities of origin. Besides being a symbol of Christianity, in Georgia wine is above all a symbol of the banquet, that is the form of sociality that characterizes the Georgian culture and that is centred on the figure of Tamadà: the pater familia, the one who praises wine.
In what is believed to be the cradle of vitis vinifera, the primordial mother of all vines, we continue to consume wine produced in amphora (kvevri in Kakheti and in Kartli or churi and in Racha), a practice that is 8,000 years old and that almost disappeared in the rest of the world colonized by the vine. Prototypes of kvevri can be recognized in the large clay jars found in the Neolithic settlements of southern Georgia (Sulaveris-Gora, Chramis Didi-Gora) and in the amphorae produced in the southern Caucasus in the III-IV century BC.
Today these amphorae can still be found in almost all the country houses of the Georgian wine-growing regions, where they serve to produce wine for consumption, but the large winegrowing cooperatives, born at the time of the Soviet Union, when Georgia was the wine tank of the Russian republics, and surviving the collapse of the Union, now favor more productive vines and more modern and conventional technologies. For this reason, since 2008 the regions of Khakheti and Imereti have been protected by the Slow Food Presidium, in collaboration with Cammino Autoctuve and The Biological Farming Association Elkana.
It is also a costly and problematic technique: considerthe difficulty of washing a similar clay tank after the fermentation, totally sunk into the ground and accessible only through a small opening. Even the production of amphorae requires a very demanding work, which requires precision, patience and great physical effort (they are shaped by hand without using the potter's lathe and, after drying, they are cooked in special ceramic ovens) and currently there are only five potters in activity.
In eastern Georgia and particularly in Kakheti, wines are traditionally made in ground-floor or basement rooms, with large stone walls and with small windows or without windows at all, in order to keep the most constant temperature (marani)inside. In western Georgia, where the climate is milder, the amphorae are buried directly in the "open-air" soil in the orchard or in a part of the courtyard shaded by trees or under an open canopy (chur-marani).
The grapes are crushed barefoot and the flower must is collected on the bottom of a wooden or stone basin, where it is poured through a hole into expressly prepared kvevri. The large amphorae are thus filled and buried so that even the orifice of the neck remains below ground level, to allow first the fermentation and then the aging of wines, both white and red. The practices are slightly different depending on the local traditions: in Imereti, for example, in the north of the country, the wines go in the amphora without peels, while in the area of Khakheti fermentation and aging on peels are practiced. After two months the wine is poured again into another clean amphora, where it ripens for another 2 or 3 years, but it can happen that it ripens even for over 20 years. Despite the hermetic seal, the porous clay walls of the kvevri allow a slow oxidation of the wine and a limited evaporation. Therefore, every fifteen days, the level is checked and, if necessary, it is topped up, so that the amphora is always full to the rim.
The wines deriving from the maturation in amphora and from the different local practices give life to unique wines, very enduring, with a relatively high acidity, rich in numerous aromatic compounds.
Info: Unearthing Georgia’s wine heritage – CNN.com.flv