Rtveli – Harvest of Grapes in Georgia

Rtveli

Rtveli is an annual autumn grape harvest festival in Georgia. Georgia has always had a special relationship with wine and winemaking. Not surprisingly, the Rtveli grape harvest is one of the most important events for every citizen of the country.

The holiday of Rtveli is traditionally family and community. On Rtveli, the whole big family is going to the house, all the relatives. Friends and neighbors come. And everyone will find work. After all, grapes need to be harvested very quickly – when the berries have already gained the right amount of sugar, but the rains have not yet begun. People enjoy the grape harvest together and make new wine.

The time of  Rtveli depends on the date of harvest in specific areas of Georgia. There is no single time for it: although Georgia is a small country, the climate in its different parts varies significantly. For example, in Eastern Georgia, Rtveli takes place earlier than in Western Georgia, as a rule, in September, as early frosts can strike, and the grapes will disappear. But in the West they sometimes celebrate in the middle, and even at the end of October. In addition, the date depends on how the summer was: if it’s very dry and hot, then the celebration happens earlier, if it’s cool, then the winemakers wait until the last harvest.

The main motive of Rtveli is harvesting. Similar autumn holidays exist in almost every culture in which the role of agriculture is great. And everywhere this holiday is unique. Rtveli also has his own flavor, which makes him not just a tradition, but an occasion for thousands of people to come to Georgia every year to take part in this beautiful celebration.

They pick berries from morning to evening. Juice is poured into huge ceramic jugs buried in the ground – they are called “Qvevri” and left to roam. Rtveli lasts several days, and every evening ends with feasts with the performance of folk songs and dances. Not only wine is made from grapes harvested during the Rtveli period. Chacha is made from grape pulp. And from the juice – “Pelamushi” and “Churchkhela”, natural Georgian sweets.

Of course, it is no coincidence that the harvest festival in Georgia is dedicated specifically to grapes. Georgia is considered the birthplace of cultural viticulture. Viticulture and winemaking is one of the areas where Georgians, among the few, have the right to claim the role of pioneers. Aeschylus and Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo wrote about the developed winemaking in the territory of modern Georgia. Their testimonies are confirmed by ancient Assyrian sources. It was on the territory of Georgia that traces of the vine were discovered, numbering … 15 million (!) years.

The attitude towards the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine is especially reverent. No wonder they say that sweat should pour over the vineyard – then the harvest will be truly worthy. Grape cultivation is the oldest layer of the general culture of the nation, which has absorbed mores, traditions, tastes, rules of behavior. It is no accident that it is generally accepted that many features of the national spirit are reflected in wine.

It is no coincidence that connoisseurs make choices not only from factory wines, but also wines from households. Each family in the village has its own secret of making wine. This is a whole art that is passed down from generation to generation. One of the traditional ways of making wine is aging – Qvevri clay jug, according to the decision of UNESCO, since 2013, Qvevri  included in the list of untouchable cultural heritage of mankind.

Today, when interest in Georgia is extremely high, many options for tours to this country are offered. It’s practically impossible to get to the Rtveli holiday “from the side” without a travel agency, for this you need to have friends who want to invite travelers to a family celebration. Anyone who wants to visit the wine-growing regions and feel the special flavor of the Georgian feast should have a rest in Georgia in September-early October in order to get to the colorful and cheerful holiday – Rtveli.

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