By the end of August, when the first grapes ripen, Rtveli takes place in Georgia — a grape harvest holiday. For a country that has been cooking and drinking this divine nectar for the past 8 thousand years it is indeed a holiday.
The most popular wine-making region is Kakheti, known to the world as a motherland of wine. It was here that a man first cultivated grapes, bringing this wild-growing plant to the expanses of the Alazani Valley. It is here that the remains of prehistoric wineries and the oldest grape seed in the world were found and are now stored in museums.
According to Georgians, it is in the famous Alazani Valley, surrounded by the tall mountains of the Greater Caucasus in the fertile valley of the Alazani River, the best wine grape varieties grow. And of course, Kakheti wine is the Georgian pride. Saperavi, Mukuzani, Kindzmarauli and many others more than once took first places at the world’s largest wine exhibitions.
But Rtveli is not just a feast, it is the whole process: from harvesting the grapes to its’ immediate processing. And of course, this is a family holiday when huge families come together and neighbors and friends invite and help each other.
Strings of carts, trucks, and tractors are pushed into the vineyards every morning, due to the fact that the crop must be harvested quickly so that the wine turns out exactly as the winemaker intended. And all this happens through funny songs and general glee.
Then the crops harvested are to be processed: some people traditionally feet-crush grapes in special wooden tanks of satsnaheli, and others use special manual crushers. All the squeezed juice flows down the grooves in qvevri – the clay jugs – that are buried in the ground in wine cellars called marani.
In one of the Kakhetian folk customs it is common to give the most beautiful and after harvesting, they look for the most beautiful and most burly girl and ride her through the vineyard in honor of the next good harvest!
And of course, after a hard day’s work, all workers gather at a large table, which is often set up right in the field under the vine.
Here comes the most exciting show – toasts, music, songs, dances.
The first toast is a praise to the Lord who gave such a big and great harvest!
Many dozens, or even hundreds of beautiful, wise toasts will be said at our table in Sunny Kakheti, where guinea was born (Georgian wine)!