For many centuries winemaking was not only the basis of economic riches of Georgia but also a part of its spiritual culture. Wine for a Georgian is not just a drink. Wine is more like a religion there. Wine strengthens the national spirit, and unites guests of traditional Caucasian feasts. Grapevine is mentioned in the Georgian legends, stories and songs. Wine in Georgia is the national asset attracting tourists from all over the world.
Historically Georgia was the territory where winemaking cult prospered. Today nobody can tell when and where from the first grapevine appeared there, but the climate reigning there promoted the amber grape bunches growth. The grape leaves traces related to past geological epochs found on the territory of Georgia; the jugs with the remains of grape seeds found in ancient burial places testify to the fact that Georgia was one of the progenitresses of winemaking.
Winemaking equipment found by archeologists on the territory of the country – stone wine presses, various wine vessels from clay and metal related to the 3 rd – 2 nd millennia B.C. – are just other proofs. Of the deep roots of winemaking speak the grapevine images on huge dug-in conic vessels intended for wine storage – “kvevri” found in the settlements whose age, according to archeologists, is around 8,000 years old.
In process of wine growing and winemaking in Georgia appeared the most valuable grapes; people began to distinguish vines types and develop local ways of wine manufacture. Eastern Georgia – ancient Kakhetia has always been the centre of grapes cultivation and wine manufacturing. Alazani valley is the most glorified winemaking area of Kakhetia. Its unique geographical position, proximity of rivers, wind protection by the mountains of the Major Caucasus and the fertile soils of the valley create perfect conditions for cultivation of grapes resulting in really magnificent wines. Kakhetian wines are distinguished by original bouquet and taste.
Every guest is God-sent” (Georgian proverb). For centuries Georgian people developed traditions of hospitality. Love and boundless respect for guests, devotion to host’s duties, traditional feast are passed from one generation to another. As a result Georgian culture is distinguished by high culture of hospitality. In the past centuries the people of Georgia even had special guest rooms or even separate houses the doors of which were at all times open so that a guest could come, eat and spend the night there.
According to Georgian national poetry hospitality is appreciated more than bravery, courage and skilful weapon handling. Georgian folklore idealizes a hospitable, generous owner and blames avaricious one. Great attention is also given to the morals of a visitor. The visitor should be reserved, modest and kind person. According to Georgian (and Caucasian) traditions of hospitality a visitor handed his weapon to the host or the senior person in the family. This highly moral behavior of the visitor projected trust, expressed fidelity and respect of the host. It meant that the visitor had good intentions and came to the family with peaceful and friendly intensions.
An obligatory attribute of Georgian and Caucasian hospitality is a feast arranged in perfect order, demanding good behavior and observance of appropriate etiquette. A special person who makes sure it all observed is called tamada (toastmaster). The entire holiday will depend on the wisdom and eloquence of the tamada and his toasts. As the old custom goes the host himself has to play the part of tamada. Otherwise he is chosen from among the most respected and decent people. Holding a feast is a complex and critical task: a tamada has to supervise the feast progress skillfully maintaining the order, follow the toasts, avoid verbosity, alternate toast with jokes or funny stories.
Besides, the host should pay attention to everyone around the table not to offend anybody even inadvertently. A good tamada makes sure no one get too drunk quickly and maintains the unity of the feast. At the same time he can’t push too hard limiting wine consumption and offend a guest. In other words it is a special delicate art which has been improving for many years.
A Georgian feast is necessarily accompanied by toasts. Toasts express the best regards of hosts and guests. They bless families, wish prosperity and overcoming of all obstacles in life; health and happiness, worthy repulse to enemies; toasts accuse evil and eulogize good nature and sincerity of people.
There are certain rules of toasts making. The first to be said are obligatory toasts. They can be greeting toasts, a wish of well-being; then goes a toast-congratulation on the celebrated event. Toasts to health of parents, peace in a family are also obligatory. After the main toasts improvisation begins. One of the last toasts is to a tamada to thank him for perfect feast. The final toast in most cases is pronounced to the Saints guarding and protecting the participants of the feast, and to the hosts to thank them for hospitality and wish them good luck and health.
And of course a Georgian feast is always accompanied by music, cheerful energetic dances and beautiful harmonious songs.
Real Georgian wedding is a beautiful, entertaining and rich holiday with observance of all original customs of Georgian people. The first rule of Georgian wedding is abundance of invited guests. Sometimes the number of guests reaches several hundreds. By the way, it is impossible to refuse to come to a wedding since it is a big insult for the inviting party; sometimes a long-term enmity of two families might begin for this reason.
Family creation in Georgia has three stages: machankloba — marriage proposal, nishnoba — betrothal and kortsili – wedding. Although today parents frequently do not participate in the choice of the bride or the groom for their children as it used to be, the family role remains very high. Marriage should be necessarily approved by relatives. Both families are very responsible in taking this step and try to find out as much as possible about their potential relatives. Only then they give consent to marriage proposal. When all formalities are observed there comes time for betrothal ceremony.
According to beautiful custom the groom during the bride’s entering their future house should climb on the roof and free a white bird. Then the newlyweds are offered a wedding glass of wine. The first to drink is the groom who then puts the wedding ring in wine and passes the glass to the bride who also drinks from a glass Afterwards the groom gets the ring out of the glass and officially hands it over to his chosen one saying words of devotion and love.
Then follows the solemn “survey” of the groom’s house by the bride as the future mistress. Accompanied by witnesses and guests the groom and the bride break a beautiful plate for luck before entering the house. In order to make new home prosperous they throw grains of cereals to the house corners and give the newlyweds wooden ornaments – “chiragdani” which mean “the life tree”. During her walk around the house the bride should touch a cauldron which is a symbol of home and go round a pot with oil or wheat three times.
Georgian weddings are very cheerful and noisy. Tamada will urge anyone to tell the toast. The first toast is to the groom and the bride, peace and prosperity in their home, cheerful children’s voices.
The most romantic and beautiful wedding ritual (generally accepted in Caucasus ) is the abduction of the bride. Now abduction is formal and happens only with the consent of the bride and her parents. Often it happens to avoid the expenses connected with the organization of magnificent and rich Georgian wedding. Not every family can afford traditional national wedding in conformity with the customs of their ancestors. The abduction of the bride makes it possible to arrange a modest feast only for close relatives. After that the marriage is considered effected. There is always a chance to organize the proper wedding in the future.
The basic expenses related to wedding organization are borne by the family of the groom. The financial position of the bride has no special value. Her main assets are modesty, chastity, piety, thrift, good temper. Girls in Georgia are brought up in traditions of chastity. A man is the breadwinner in a Georgian family, its supporter and physical protector; a woman – spiritual force, keeper and teacher of ethical traditions.