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Struggling to Understand 8,000 Years Ago

Understanding time has much to do with our own experiences. I have no problem understanding two and three hundred years ago. While teaching fifth grade in the Prince George’s County Public School System, I would help take over 100 students on an overnight field trip to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Both of those sites are living histories and one can walk on a ship, stroll in a fort and its buildings or amble through the streets and buildings in a colonial town. You get a pretty good sense of two to three hundred years ago.

My concept of old was shattered on our first trip to Italy. I commented that a cantina that was built three hundred years ago was old. I was corrected on the spot. The cantina is new not old we were told. Kathy and I were then taken to the vineyards where the ruins of a house stood amidst the vines. The house dated bace to the 1100’s. Further trips to Italy, United Kingdom, Croatia and France helped me gain the concept of a few thousand years ago. In France, this summer, we visited several caves. At Tattinger Champagne House, the cave were hewn out by the Romans who were quarrying the limestone. In Wales a vineyard had the remains of a Roman built water system. It was believed that there was a vineyard on the site thousands of years ago. In Italy and Croatia we discovered more wine related artifacts dating to the time of the Romans and Greeks. While in Orvieto, we walked through caves dug out by the Etruscans. A concept of three thousand years ago was developing as I gained experiences walking the land and seeing artifacts.

Our wine journey now leads us to the country Georgia, the birthplace of wine. My concept of how old is old will be challenged as I struggle to understand 8,000 years ago. The inhabitants of what is now Georgia were cultivating grapes and making wine for thousands of years before Western Europe. Also as old is the use of fermenting and aging wine in clay vessels called qvevri. Some of the millennial old practices are still used today.

Our trip to Georgia is not just to learn about present-day wine and grape varieties. It is also to learn wine’s history and a people’s culture that kept wine in the forefront for eight thousand years. We hope to harvest grapes and help make a qvevri wine. Many decades ago, while a high school student, I attended a lecture. The presenter commented, “If you truly want to learn a subject, write a book about it.” Heeding his advice, Kathy and I are researching Georgia as the birthplace for wine, and writing a book about it.

We will make a return trip to Georgia in late March of 2014 for the International Wine Tourism Conference. After the conference, we will join the media FAM group touring Georgian wineries. Perhaps we will open a qvevri of wine whose grapes we helped harvest and make the wine. We are fascinated with Georgia and gaining an understanding of 8,000 years ago.


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