History of Winemaking
Azerbaijani wine is produced in several regions throughout Azerbaijan. Prior to 20th century communist rule, Azerbaijan had a thriving wine industry that dated back to the second millennium BC. Azerbaijan, considered to be one of the birthplaces of the vine, is very rich in grape varieties, not only for the production of table or technical grapes, but also wild ones. According to a study, more than 600 local and introduced grape varieties can be found in Azerbaijan today. Azerbaijan was one of the major wine producers of the Soviet Union. Not only was the production area much larger than today but also yields were much higher. After Mikhail Gorbachev’s “anti-alcoholism campaign”, the majority of vineyards were cleared ruining the sector. In the beginning of the transformation process, the wine sector was not revitalized. The revitalization of the wine sector has begun at the beginning of the new millennium when a number of new companies have been established. Right from the beginning, these new companies started to work with European experiences and technologies.
The production of technical grapes is divided into approximately 80% of red wine grapes and 20% of white wine grapes. 10’000 – 15’000 tons of these grapes are used for the production of sparkling wine and brandy.
Azerbaijan’s long history of wine production was rediscovered at archaeological digs of settlements in Kultapa, Qarabaglar and Galajig where archaeologists discovered stone fermentation and storage vessels that included residue and grape seeds dating back to the second millennium BC. The Ancient Greeks were well aware of wine production in the area by at least the 7th century BC according to Herodotus. Later Strabo would comment in the 1st century BC about an Azerbaijani wine known as Albania. Arabic historians and geographers—most notably Abu’l-Fida, Al-Masudi, Ibn Hawqal and Al-Muqaddasi – described the extensive viticulture around Ganja and Barda that was taking place even after Islamic conquest of the area.
The most ancient national literature (seventh century) monument “The Book of Dede Korkut” sayings, which proved the existence of viticulture and winemaking in epic encounter. XIII century great Azerbaijani poet Nizami Gancavi – the author of “Isgandarname” and “Seven Beauties”, wrote poems that Azerbaijan is rich in grapes and other fruits.
German colonies at the beginning of the last century, played an important role in the development of viticulture and winemaking in Azerbaijan
Since the fall of Communism and the restoration of Azerbaijani independence, ardent attempts have been made to revive and modernize the Azerbaijani wine industry. Today vineyards are found in the foothills of Caucasus Mountains as well and the Kur-Araz lowlands near the Kura River. In the 21st century, Ganja, Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhichevan have emerged as centers of wine production in the region. Among the grape varieties used to produce Azerbaijani wine include Pinot noir, Rkatsiteli, Pinot blanc, Aligote, Matrassa, Podarok Magaracha, Pervenets Magaracha, Ranni Magaracha, Doina, Viorica and Kishmish Moldavski. Local grape varieties indigenous to Azerbaijan include White Shani, Derbendi, Nail, Bayanshire, Gamashara, Ganja Pink, Bendi, Madrasa, Black Shani, Arna-Grna, Zeynabi, Misgali, Khindogni, Agdam Kechiemdzhei, Tebrizi, and Marandi.
Is Azerbaijan the 2nd Oldest Wine Region? (Liz Thach)
Most experts agree that the cradle of winemaking most likely resides somewhere in the Caucasus Mountain region where vitusvinifera grapevines grow naturally in the foothills and valleys. However, the exact birth location of winemaking is in some dispute. Various archeological digs point to Georgia, Iran, Turkey, and, more recently, Azerbaijan.
Georgia claims to be the oldest wine region in the world due to wine residue found on the inner surfaces of 8000-year-old jars in the village of Shulaveri. At the Hajji Firuz site in northern Iran, Dr. Patrick A. McGovern’s team found wine residue in jars from 7,400 years ago. More recently, a team of international researchers in the Henan Province of Central China discovered wine residue from 9,000 years ago, but not of vitusvinifera grapes.
Though Azerbaijan does not claim to be the oldest winemaking region in the world, it could be a contender. Indeed Dr. Patrick A. McGovern mentions evidence of grapes and possible winemaking dating to the 7th Millennium BC at Shomu-Tepe in his book Ancient Wine. Shomu-Tepe is located near Tovuz in the northern region of Azerbaijan near the Georgian border.
In the Middle Ages, it was known among the rural population that some wines were also used against tiredness and relaxation. For instance, in the court of Shah Ismayil Safavi, royal physicians recommended wine to alleviate tiredness. Other sorts were utilized as medicine. In his writings in 1311, historian and scholar Yusuf ibn Ismail al-Kutubi notes that small doses of wine can strengthen the sense of organs and the whole body, and melancholy, depression and bad mood, while water-diluted wines are a good medicine against fever and cold. Wines produced from rose petals were used against headaches, heart disease and stomachache.
Fresh grapes are capable of high taste and nutritional product. Full of ripening fruit in the vineyard 65-85% water, 15-25% glucose and fructose in the form of sugars that can be misappropriated by the human body is easy. 1 liter of grape juice is 480-1280 kcal of energy, which is equivalent to 20-30% of the daily food ration.
Wine and wine products are known since ancient times to be curative. Given the importance of therapeutic endoterapiyada very promising wines. Grape juice acidity (pH-2633) to the pH of gastric juice (2-2.5) years. This is also to ensure the normal functioning of the human body is the gastrointestinal system. On the other hand, easily assimilated grape juice, sugar muscular system, especially the valuable nutrients to the heart muscle. Grape Juice and Juice bactericidal effect in the prevention of infectious diseases are caused by the human body can be used successfully.
Wine in legend
…One autumn, the poor man made grape juice from an ample harvest. He drank some of it and stored the rest in jugs. Two months later he opened one of the jugs and tried the contents. He liked it very much and was surprised at how the twisted vine had produced such a delicious drink. He invited his friends round for a feast. A nightingale flew in first, tried the drink and said: Whoever tries this drink will sing like me!
Then a cockerel flapped in, drank and said: Whoever drinks more will be as truculent as me!
Third was a fat boar, which ran in, drained a bowl and said: Whoever drinks too much will wallow in mud like me!
Finally a fox arrived and drained another bowl, saying: The wine will steal the mind of whoever gets completely drunk and, like me, he will be red-faced for a long time afterwards.
This is how wine affects people. A little wine makes them sing and have fun; a little more addles the brain; some more and they can’t stay upright; too much leads to actions they long regret.