Georgia is the birthplace of wine according to a number of the world's competent experts. The mention of the ancient traditions of vine growing and high quality wine growing in Georgia (or Colchis and Iberia, as it was known in ancient times) can be found in the works of Homer and Apollonius of Rhodes. Even the unique Georgian alphabet is modeled after the shape of the vines curly offshoots. Up to 500 indigenous grape varieties are still cultivated here. Wine is part of Georgian heritage including architecture, poetry, and songs, and is associated with celebrations, holidays, rituals and most importantly with Georgia's religion the Christian Orthodox Church. Winemaking remained the basis of the Georgian economy for centuries. Through the long history of the Georgian nation, the vine has gained iconic significance in Georgia. It is a symbol of regeneration, of wealth and plenty.