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Georgia's forgotten wine region
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Georgia's forgotten wine region (Credit: Feng Wei Photography/Getty Images)
Four hundred years after the Ottomans destroyed a region's once-proud winemaking tradition, locals are reviving it.
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Straddling the fertile valleys of the south Caucasus Mountains, Georgia is commonly believed to be the birthplace of wine, with the practice originating around 6,000BC. Not only were Stone Age Georgians believed to be the first humans to ferment grapes by burying its juice underground for the winter, but today, Georgian identity remains inseparable from winemaking, with wine long being the engine of the Georgian economy. In fact, among invaders, it was historically said that if you wanted to defeat Georgia, you needed to first destroy its vineyards.

Restoring Georgia's ancient wine culture

This is exactly what happened in Georgia's southern Samtskhe-Javakheti region in the 1500s. For centuries, this key winemaking region was home to ancient Georgians who lived in hollowed-out caves in the nearby volcanic rock and constructed terraced vineyards down its slopes. In the 1550s, invading Ottoman Turks destroyed Samtskhe-Javakheti's vineyards and went on to rule the area for more than 300 years.

Yet, in recent years, locals have begun replanting indigenous grapes, restoring their ancestors' once-proud terraced vineyards to their former glory and harvesting wine in the region for the first time in 400 years.

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This video is part of BBC Reel's Hidden Histories playlist.

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