Rtveli: Celebrating the Wine Grape Harvest in Georgia
Among Georgia’s myriad wine traditions, ‘Rtveli’ holds a special place. This vibrant and age-old festival marks the grape harvest season, turning Georgian vineyards into lively hubs of celebration, song, and camaraderie. “Rtveli” is a special word for “Wine Grape Harvest”, reflecting the centrality of wine in Georgian life and culture.
Rtveli typically takes place in late September to early October, coinciding with the grape ripening. The timing is crucial; grapes must be picked when their sugar and acidity levels are perfect for wine production. But Rtveli is not just about the mechanics of grape-picking. It’s a cultural and communal event, where families, friends, and even strangers come together to celebrate the bountiful harvest.
During Rtveli, vineyards buzz with activity. People of all ages participate – some picking grapes, others crushing them in traditional wooden winepresses called “Satsnakheli.” As the juices flow, they’re transferred to “Qvevri” – large clay vessels buried underground, where the wine will ferment and mature, retaining its unique taste and character.
But what truly sets Rtveli apart is the festive spirit that envelops it. Alongside the labor, there’s dancing, singing, and feasting. Georgian polyphonic songs, with their rich harmonies, echo through the vineyards, celebrating nature’s bounty and human camaraderie. Meals are communal, with long tables laden with traditional Georgian dishes. And, of course, there’s wine. The fresh grape must is also used to make a thick condensed juice called “Badagi”, which is a key ingredient in “Churchkhela”, which are commonly made at this time.
Rtveli isn’t just a harvest festival; it’s a testament to Georgia’s deep-rooted respect for the land and its produce. The celebration encapsulates the essence of Georgian hospitality, where every guest is a gift from God, and every glass raised is a toast to life, nature, and togetherness.
In a world where traditions often fade in the face of modernity, Rtveli remains a heartwarming reminder of Georgia’s enduring love affair with wine and its commitment to preserving cultural treasures through time.