Georgian Wine

 

Georgia is one of the oldest wine producing regions of the world. The fertile valleys of the South Caucasus, which Georgia straddles, are believed by many archaeologists to be the source of the world's first cultivated grapevines

and Neolithic wine production, over 8,000 years ago. Due to the many millennia of wine in Georgian history, the traditions of its viticulture are entwined and inseparable with the country's national identity.
One of the best-known wine producing regions in Georgia is Kakheti which is further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli. The regions of Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, and Abkhazia also produce excellent wines.
History

Georgian Wine


It has been archaeologically proven that the roots of Georgian viticulture started between 9000 and 7000 BC, when the people of South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was explored and developed through experience, and from 4000 BC Georgians were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, called ‘kvevri’, in which to store their wine - ready for serving at perfect earth (soil) temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the kvevris were topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some may remain entombed for up to 50 years.


This love affair with the grape was given further encouragement by the arrival of Saint Nino in the 4th century. Whilst fleeing Roman persecution in Cappadocia in what is now central Turkey, and bearing a cross made from vine wood and bound with her own hair, Saint Nino was swept up in the warm embrace of the Georgians who became early converts to Christianity (around 323 AD - 319 AD). Thus the cross and the vine became inextricably linked in the Georgian psyche, and the advent of the new faith served to sanction these ancient vinous practices. For centuries Georgians drank, and in some areas still drink, their delicious wine from horns (called kantsi in Georgian) and skins specially treated for this purpose. These drinking implements came from their herd animals as no part of the valued and respected beasts went to waste. The horns were cleaned, boiled and polished, creating a unique, durable and quite stylish drinking vessel. These horns were prized by the merchants and warriors that travelled the fertile valleys of the Caucasus. Today they are still considered to be a prized symbol of the historic eras.


Wine drinking vessels of every shape, size and design account for the bulk of earthenware artifacts unearthed by Georgian archaeologists. The Georgian craft of pottery is millennia old. Ancient artifacts attest to the high skill of Georgian craftsmen in whose hands water, clay and fire turned into an object of exceptional beauty which is much admired by people. The most impressive of all archaeological finds are kvevri, giant clay vessels in which wine was fermented and stored up. The Georgians used to bury them into soil, just as we are doing now. Georgian museums have on display numerous clay vessels of various designs. Some were used to ferment grape juice and to store up wine, such as kvevri, chapi and satskhao, and others were used for drinking, such as khelada, doki, sura, chinchila, deda-khelada, dzhami and marani.


For ages, artisans polished their skills to improve these drinking vessels. These trade secrets were passed on from fathers to sons. Modern potters carefully study the ancient craft and decorative patterns and create their own pottery making extensive use of the ancient traditional methods and using the latest scientific and technological achievements to enrich ancient traditions.


Many of the excavated silver, gold and bronze artifacts of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC bears imprints of the vine, grape clusters and leaves. The State Museum of Georgia has on display a cup of high-carat gold set with gems, a decorated silver pitcher and some other artifacts dating back to the 2nd millennium BC. The Museum of History has a cameo depicting Bacchus, the mythological god of wine. Numerous sarcophagi with wine pitchers and decorated wine cups which were found in ancient tombs, and it is proof that wine was nothing unusual for Georgians during ancient history. On the basis of this evidence it is safe to say that viticulture is a pre-eminent theme in the long record of Georgian history.

 

 

Viticulture

Georgia ranks 2nd (in terms of volume) in grape production in the former Soviet Union right behind Moldova. Georgian wines have always been the most highly prized and sought after commodity during the Soviet period. Presently the wine is produced by thousands of small farmers by using primarily traditional techniques of wine-making, as well as modern wineries, such as Teliani Valley, Telavis Marani, Tbilvino, Kindzmarauli Marani, Badagoni and Mukhrani.



Growing Conditions

When it comes to wine-making, Georgia is blessed. Extreme weather is unusual and summers tend to be short-sleeved sunny, and winters mild and frost-free. Natural springs abound and the Caucasian Mountain streams drain mineral-rich water into the valleys. Georgia's moderate climate and moist air, influenced by the Black Sea, provide the best conditions for vine cultivating. The soil in vineyards is so intensively cultivated that the grape vines grow up the trunks of fruit trees eventually hanging down along the fruit when they ripen. This method of cultivation is called maglari.



Grape Varieties in Georgia

The Western World has up to now been mostly unaware of the many traditional Georgian grape varieties. But, recently there has been a huge increase in international awareness regarding the wines of Eastern and Central Europe.
Although there are nearly 400 to choose from, only 38 grape varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture in Georgia. These are:
• Rkatsiteli (white) is a variety that is so widely grown in Eastern and Central Europe that it ranks third in the world in hectares grown. It is the most important grape variety used to make Georgian white wines. It is high in acidity and is capable of producing wines with fine character.
• Saperavi (red) produces substantial deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging, perhaps up to fifty years. Saperavi has the potential to produce high alcohol levels and is used extensively for blending with other lesser varieties. It is the most important grape variety used to make Georgian red wines.
• Mtsvani (or Mtsvane) (white) is also important in Georgian wines, and is often blended with Rkatsiteli to which it adds a fruity, aromatic balance. In the Georgian language Mtsvane means green.
• Alexandrouli (Alexandreuli, Alexsandrouli, red)
• Alexandria
• Tsolikauri (white)
• Tetra (white)
• Mujuretuli (red)
• Ojaleshi (red) is cultivated on the mountain slopes overhanging the banks of the Tskhenis-Tskali river, particularly in the Orbeli village and Samegrelo district of Western Georgia.
• Usakhelauri (red) is cultivated mostly in the Zubi-Okureshi district of Western Georgia.
• Izabella (red)
• Tavkveri (red)
• Asuretuli (red)
• Cabernet Sauvignon (red)
• Aladasturi (red)
• Tsitska (white)
• Tsolikouri (white)
• Khikhvi (white) is grown in Kardanakhi.
• Dzvelshava
• Krakhuna
• Chinuri (white)
• Gibrita (red)
• Manata (white)



Georgian wine varieties – Alvani

Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. Georgian wines are classified as sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.



White

• Pirosmani is a semi-sweet white wine made from a 40% Tsolikauri, 60% Tsitska blend. It has won 3 gold medals and one silver medal at international competitions.
Tsinandali is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.
• Tvishi is a natural semi-sweet white wine made from Tsolikauri in the Lechkhumi region. It has won one gold medal, two silver medals and one bronze medal in international competitions.
• Mtsvani is a dry white wine made from Mtsvani.
• Alaznis Veli is white semi-sweet wine made from the Rkatsiteii, Tetra, Tsolikauri and other industrial grape varieties cultivated in Western and Eastern Georgia. The wine of straw color has a characteristic aroma and a a fine, fresh and a harmonious taste. It contains 9-11% alcohol and has 6-7% titrated acidity.
• Anakopia is a white semi-dry table wine made from the Tsolikauri grape variety grown in the Sukhumi and Gudauta districts in Abkhazia. The color range is from light to dark-straw. It has a specific aroma and a subtle fresh taste. The alcohol content in the ready wine is 9-11%, sugar content 1-2 g/100 ml, titrated acidity 5-8 g / l. The wine has been produced since 1978.
• Tbilisuri is pink semi-dry wine produced since 1984. It is made from the Saperavi, Cabernet and Rkatsiteli grape varieties grown in East Georgia. The wine has a rich fruity taste. The alcohol content is 9-11.5%, sugar content 1-2%, titrated acidity 5-7 g / l.
• Khikkhvi is a vintage white dessert wine made from the Khikhvi grape variety grown in Kardanakhi. It has pleasant amber color, a characteristic aroma and a delicate taste. Its alcohol content is 15%, sugar content 18-20%, titrated acidity 4-8 g / 1. The wine has been produced since 1924. At international competitions it received 4 gold medals.
• Saamo is a vintage dessert white sweet wine is made from the Rkatsiteli grape variety cultivated in the Kardanakhi vineyards of the Gurjaani district in Kakheti. It takes the wine three years to mature. The golden-color wine has an original fine bouquet, a pleasant taste with a harmonious honey fragrance. When ready for use, the wine contains 17% alcohol, 13% sugar and has 4-6 g / 1 titrated acidity. It has been manufactured since 1980. At international exhibitions Saamo was awarded 4 gold and 1 silver medal.
• Gelati is a white dry ordinary wine made of the Tsolikauri, Tsitska and Krakhuna grape varieties cultivated in Western Georgia. The wine of straw color has a characteristic savor with a fruity flavor and fresh harmonious taste. It has an alcohol content of 10.0-12.5% and titrated acidity 5-8%.
• Kakheti is a white table wine made of the Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grape varieties cultivated in Kakheti. The amber-color wine has a fruity aroma with a vanilla flavor. It is characterized by an energetic, velvety and harmonious taste. It has an alcohol content of 10.5-13.0% and titrated acidity 4-6%. At international wine competitions the Kakheti wine was awarded one silver and one bronze medal. It has been produced since 1948.
• Bodbe is made from the Rkatsiteli grape variety in the village of Bodbe in the Magaro micro district, one of the most beautiful places of Kakheti. The wine has a light-straw color, a fine aroma of wild flowers and a pleasing tender taste which give the wine a piquancy that is highly esteemed by connoisseurs. The ready wine contains 10.5-11.5% alcohol and has 5-7% titrated acidity.
• Dimi is an Imeretian-type white ordinary wine. It is made from the Tsolikauri and Krakhuna grape varieties grown on small areas in Imereti (Western Georgia) using the old local technique consisting of fermenting the grape pulp to which a certain quantity of grape husks are added. The dark-straw color has a pleasant specific bouquet with a fruity flavor, a fresh harmonious taste and savory astringency. The alcohol content is 10.5-13.0% and titrated acidity 6.5-8.0%. The wine has been produced since 1977.
• Gareji is a white dry ordinary wine made of the Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grape varieties cultivated in Kakheti. The wine has a color ranging from pale-straw to amber, a pleasing bouquet and a full harmonious taste. Its alcohol content is 0.0-12.5% and titrated acidity 4-7%.
• Ereti is a white dry ordinary wine made from the Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grape varieties. It has a straw color, a fine fruity bouquet and a full fresh and harmonious taste. Its alcohol content is 10.0-12.5% and titrated acidity 5-8%.
• Shuamta is a dry wine produced since 1984. It is made from the Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grape varieties according to the Kakhetian recipe. The wine is of amber or dark-amber color and has a moderately astringent harmonious taste with a fruity aroma. The alcohol content is 10-12%, titrated acidity 4-6 g / l, extractibility over 25 g / l.
• Alazani (white), named after Alazani river, is a mid-straw colored semi-sweet wine made from 100% Rkatsiteli. The climate of the Alazani Valley is slightly warmer than that of other wine-growing Georgian regions, making the local grapes sweeter than the rest. It has won one silver and one gold medal in international competitions.



Red

• Akhasheni is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from the Saperavi grape variety grown in the Akhasheni vineyards of the Gurdzhaani district in Kakheti. The wine of dark-pomegranate color has a harmonious velvety taste with a chocolate flavor. It contains 10.5-12.0% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity. The wine has been manufactured since 1958. At international exhibitions it was awarded 6 gold and 5 silver medals.
• Khvanchkara is a fine naturally semi-sweet red wine made from the Alexandria & Mudzhuretuli grape varieties cultivated in the Khvanchkara vineyards in Racha, Western Georgia. The wine has a strong specific bouquet and a harmonious velvety taste with a raspberry flavor. It has a dark-ruby color. The Khvanchkara wine is one of the most popular Georgian semi-sweet wines. It contains 10.5-12.0% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5.0-7.0% titrated acidity. The wine has been manufactured since 1907. For its excellent taste it was awarded 2 gold & 4 silver medals at international exhibitions.
• Kindzmarauli is a high quality naturally semi-sweet wine of dark-red color. It is made from the Saperavi grape variety cultivated on the slopes of the Caucasian mountains in the Kvareli district of Kakheti. It has a strong characteristic bouquet and aroma, a gentle harmonious and velvety taste. The wonderful taste and curative properties have won Kindzmarauli general recognition. The wine contains 10.5-12.0% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5.0-7.0% titrated acidity. It has been manufactured since 1942. For its supreme qualities Kindzmarauli was awarded 3 gold, 4 silver & 1 bronze medal at international wine competitions.
• Mukuzani is a dry red wine made from 100% Saperavi in Mukuzani, Kakheti. The wine is sourced from the very best wines of a vintage that have been fermented at controlled temperatures and with selected yeast strains. The wines are then matured for 3 years in oak to give the wine-added complexity and flavor. Mukuzani is considered to be the best of the Georgian Dry Red wines made from Saperavi. It has won 9 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 3 bronze medals in international competitions.
• Ojaleshi is one of the best red semi-sweet wines made from the grape variety of the same name cultivated on the mountain slopes overhanging the banks of the Tskhenis-Tskali river, particularly in the Orbeli village and Samegrelo district (Western Georgia). Odzhaleshi has a dark-ruby colour, a gentle bouquet and aroma, a harmonious rich taste with a fruity flavour. It contains 10-12% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has a titrated acidity of 5-6%.
• Pirosmani is a naturally semi-sweet red wine. It is made from the Saperavi grape variety cultivated in the Akhoebi vineyards of the Kardanakhi village in the Alazani Valley. The wine is fermented in clay jars buried in the ground, which is done according to the ancient Kakhetian technology of wine-making. When ready for use, the wine contains 10.5-12% alcohol, 1.5-2.5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity.
• Saperavi is a red wine made from the Saperavi grape variety grown in some areas of Kakheti. It is an attractive wine with a characteristic bouquet, a harmonious taste and pleasant astringency. It contains 10.5-12.5% alcohol and titrated acidity 5-7%. At the international wine competitions this wine received one gold and one silver medal. It has been produced since 1886.
• Usakhelauri is a naturally semi-sweet wine, which is superior to all other wines of this kind for its gentle and subtle qualities. It is produced from the excellent Usakhelauri grape variety cultivated mostly in the Zubi-Okureshi district in Western Georgia. Vineyards are arranged on the mountain slopes. The wine has an attractive ruby color with a harmonious sweetness and a wild strawberry flavour. It is noted for a pleasant velvety taste, a delicate bouquet and inimitable piquancy. The wine contains up to 10.5-12.0% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity. It has been manufactured since 1943. The word "Usakhelauri" means "nameless" in Georgia. The wine was so fine that it was hard to find an adequate name for it. At international exhibitions Usakhelauri was awarded 2 gold and 3 silver medals.
• Apsny is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made of red grape varieties cultivated in Abkhazia. The wine of pomegranate colour has a pleasant aroma, a full and harmonious taste with gentle sweetness. When ready for use, the wine contains 9-10% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity. At an international exhibition the wine received one silver medal.
• Lykhny is a naturally semi-sweet pink wine made of the Izabela grape variety cultivated in Abkhazia. The wine has pink colour, a specific aroma and a fresh harmonious taste. When ready for use, the wine contains 8-9% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity. At international exhibitions Lykhny was awarded one silver and one bronze medal.
• Mtatsminda is a pink table semi-dry wine produced since 1984. It is prepared by the original technology from the Saperavi, Tavkveri, Asuretuli, Rkatsiteli and other grape varieties grown in Tetritskaro, Kaspi, Gori and Khashuri districts. The wine is characterized by a harmonious taste with a fruity aroma and a beautiful color. The alcohol content is 9-11.5%, sugar content 1-2%, titrated acidity 5-7 g / l.
• Aguna is a pink semi-dry wine produced since 1984. It is made from the Saperavi, Cabernet and Rkatsiteli grape varieties grown in East Georgia. The wine has a rich fruity taste. The alcohol content is 9-11.5%, sugar content 1-2%, titrated acidity 5-7 g / l.
• Sachino is a pink semi-dry wine produced since 1984. It is made in accordance with the original method from the Aleksandreuli, Aladasturi, Odzhaleshi, Tsitska, Tsolikauri and other grape varieties cultivated in West Georgia. The wine is notable for a mild taste, a moderate extractability, a pure aroma and a beautiful colour. The alcohol content is 9-11.5%, sugar content 1-2%, titrated acidity 5-7 g / l.
• Barakoni is a naturally semi-dry red wine made from the unique Alexandreuli and Mudzhuretuli grape varieties cultivated in Western Georgia on the steep slopes of the Rioni gorge in the Caucasian mountains. This top quality wine of light-ruby color has a fine fragrance of violets, natural pleasant sweetness and a tender harmonious taste. When ready for use, Barakoni contains 10-12% alcohol, 1.5-2.5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity. The wine has been manufactured since 1981.
• Salkhino is a liqueur-type of dessert wine made from the Izabella grape variety with an addition of the Dzvelshava, Tsolikauri and other grape varieties cultivated in the Mayakovski district (Western Georgia). It has a characteristic ruby or pomegranate colour. The alcohol content is 15%, sugar content 30%, titrated acidity 3-7 g / l. At international competitions the wine received 6 gold medals. It has been produced since 1928.
• Alzani (Red) is a light red, semi-sweet wine made from a 60% Saperavi, 40% Rkatsiteli blend. It has won 3 gold medals and 3 silver medals at international competitions. The name comes from one of the major river systems of Georgia that borders Georgia with Azerbaijan. The climate is slightly warmer than the rest of the Georgian Wine growing regions and gives rise to much sweeter grapes than those found elsewhere.
Fortified
• Kardanakhi is a fortified vintage white wine of the type. It is made from the Rkatsiteli grape variety cultivated in the Kardanakhi vineyards of the Gurdzhaani district. The wine matures in oak barrels for three years. The amber coloured wine has a pleasant specific bouquet with a typical port wine flavour and a fine honey fragrance. It contains 18% alcohol, 10% sugar and has 4-6% titrated acidity. It was awarded 8 gold and one silver international medals.
• Anaga is a Madeira-type top-quality strong wine made from the Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi and Mtsvane grape varieties cultivated in the Gurjaani, Sighnaghi and Tsitel-Tskaro districts. The wine has a light-golden to dark-amber colour, a strong peculiar bouquet, an extractive harmonious taste with a clearly pronounced Madeira touch. The alcohol content is 19%, sugar content 4 g / ml, titrated acidity 3 - 7 g / l. The Anaga wine was awarded 1 international silver medal.
• Sighnaghi is an ordinary strong wine of the port type made from the Rkatsiteli grape variety grown in the Sighnaghi district in Kakheti. The amber-coloured wine has an extractive harmonious taste with a clearly pronounced fruity touch. The alcohol content is 3 g/100 ml, titrated acidity 5 g / l.
• Veria is a fortified vintage white port made from the Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Chinuri and other commercial grape varieties grown in Eastern Georgia. The amber-coloured wine has a peculiar aroma and harmonious taste. The alcohol content is 18%, Sugar content 7%, titrated acidity 3-7 g / 1. At an international wine competition it received 1 gold medal. The wine has been produced since 1977.
• Lelo is a port-type wine made from the Tsitska and Tsolikauri grape varieties grown in Zestaphoni, Terjola, Baghdati and Vani districts. The wine has a rich harmonious taste with a fruity aroma and a beautiful golden colour. The alcohol content is 19%, sugar content 5%, titrated acidity 6 g / l.
• Marabda is a port-type wine made from the Rkatsiteli grape variety grown in Marneuli and Bolnisi districts. It has a full harmonious taste with a fruity aroma & light-golden colour. The alcohol content is 19%, sugar content 5%, titrated acidity 6 g / l.
• Kolkheti is a fortified vintage white port is made from Tsolikauri, Tsitska and other commercial white grape varieties grown in Western Georgia. The amber-coloured wine has a specific bouquet and harmonious taste. Its alcohol content is 18%, Sugar content 7%, titrated acidity 3-7 g / l. At an international competition the wine received one silver medal. It has been produced since 1977.
• Taribana is a port-type wine made from the Rkatsiteli grape variety cultivated in Kakheti. The wine has a mild oily taste, a low sugar content and a beautiful colour. The alcohol content is 19%, sugar content 5%, titrated acidity 5 g / l.
Wine styles
• Lelo is a port-type wine made from the Tsitska and Tsolikauri grape varieties grown in Zestaponi, Terjola, Baghdati and Vani districts. The wine has a rich harmonious taste with a fruity aroma and a beautiful golden colour. The alcohol content is 19%, sugar content 5%, titrated acidity 6 g / l.
• Akhasheni is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from the Saperavi grape variety grown in the Akhasheni vineyards of the Gurdzhaani district in Kakheti, a province of Georgia. The wine of dark-pomegranate colour has a harmonious velvety taste with a chocolate flavour. It contains 10.5-12.0% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity. The wine has been manufactured since 1958.
• Khvanchkara is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from the Alexandrouli & Mudzhuretuli grape varieties cultivated in the Khvanchkara vineyards, near the town of Ambrolauri in the Racha region of western Georgia. The Khvanchkara wine is one of the most popular Georgian semi-sweet wines. Along with Kindzmarauli, it was the favourite wine of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It has a dark-ruby colour. It contains 10.5 - 12.0% alcohol, 3 - 5% sugar and has 5.0 - 7.0% titrated acidity. The wine has been manufactured since 1907.
Wine-producing regions of Georgia
There are five main regions of viniculture, the principal region being Kakheti which produces seventy percent of Georgia's grapes. Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For instance, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.
• Kakheti, containing the micro-regions Telavi and Kvareli
• Kartli
• Imereti
• Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti
• Ajaras