There are approximately 530 unique grape varieties in Georgian that have been recorded by a ampelographers. Many are planted in “vine libraries”, some are widely planted, and there are still many waiting to be discovered. Like most of Europe, phylloxera damaged extensive vineyard areas throughout the country, followed by Soviet collectivism in farming and winemaking which excluded the diverse amount of varieties to about 20. With encyclopaedic books and growing interest within Georgia, many local varieties are being rediscovered and cultivated.
The recent chapter in the country’s wine production is as fascinating as any other period in its 8,000 year history. In the days of the old Soviet Union, whilst Ukraine was known as the breadbasket of Russia, Georgia was known as the wine cellar. The country exported over 80% of its annual wine production to satisfy the needs of thirsty Russians, and quality was considerably less important than quantity.
This all changed in 2006 however, when Russia imposed a crippling embargo on Georgian wine. Georgia was forced to look to the west for potential export markets, and its vineyards began to focus more on quality and marketing, adapting their production techniques to suit new western tastes. Today Georgian wine is stocked by best European supermarkets and is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Georgian vineyards have been cultivated for generations.