Georgian wines have never been well known or widely accessible in the UK – how often have you spotted a bottle of mtsvane in your local supermarket or saperavi on a restaurant wine list? Yet Georgia is considered to be one of the world’s oldest homelands of viticulture, and has gained a raft of accolades at international competitions.
From 4000 BC, Georgians have been cultivating grapes and making clay jars called kvevri, which are buried up to their neck to store their fermenting and maturing wine ready for serving at perfect ground temperature. These beeswax-lined vessels can be as small as a flask or large enough for a person to fit inside!
This ancient tradition, noted in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List and branded across many tourist souvenirs, has never been abandoned. In fact, it’s going through a bit of a renaissance at the moment, with dozens of winemakers looking to make modern wines in the old, natural way, and world-renowned restaurants returning bottles to the table.
It’s also common for farmers and families in Georgia to grow their own grapes and produce their own wine. They then serve it at wonderful feasts, where the wine flows as freely as the tongue of the Tamada – the toastmaster who ensures glasses need replenishing regularly throughout the meal.
Georgia has eight wine districts, its most coveted and productive being Kakheti, in the east of the country. It’s a vast land of vineyards interrupted by fine old churches, and beautiful hilltop towns with views over the Alazani Valley and the Eastern Caucasus Mountains.
In this picturesque land grows more indigenous grape varieties than any other country in the world. Of over 500 different species, around 40 are used for commercial wine production. And of all the different and delicious varieties of wine available in Georgia – sweet and dry, red, rosé, white and sparkling – only four varieties seem to dominate the commercially available wines. Saperavi is the one red – delectably dark with ripe blackberry and a little spice. Then you’ve got a trio of whites: rkatsiteli (crisp apple and peach), mstvane (an aromatic floral dry white with grapefruit zinginess) and kisi (an amber, floral wine with apple and quince).
When visiting Georgia, trying the sumptuous golden whites and spicy reds produced from kvevri are, naturally, a must; but traditional red and white semi-sweet wines are also popular. Look out for khvanchkara, as well as kindzmarauli, the favourite wine of Georgia’s most infamous son, Joseph Stalin.
Join us on a tour of Armenia and Georgia to journey into the wonderful Kakheti province. We’ll visit one of the wine cellars in Kvareli, the charming town at the heart of this renowned wine region, and take a moment to experience real Georgian culture with a taste its homemade wines. It’s also an opportunity for you to discover Georgia’s second favourite use for their grapes, as you make churchhela – sweets made of nuts or dried fruit cocooned in grape juice and left to dry. Delicious!
Feeling inspired? Find out more about our holiday to Armenia and Georgia.