Georgia's culture and history are deeply rooted in wine. They are believed by many to be the birthplace of viticulture, with artefacts dating back to at least 8000 BC—even their unique language links to wine, with their letters resembling the curvy form of a vine.
Georgians are famous for having some of the world's most unique and authentic wines. However, the Soviets strangled the industry, demanding mass-produced bulk wine – a lot of the identity and sense of place was removed from the wine. The hangover is still there, with some wines being made and exported to former Eastern Bloc nations. But now, winemakers here are rediscovering and reconnecting to their rich wine heritage; many are producing world-class wine.
Due to its location and lack of large-scale winemakers as neighbours, the grapes used in Georgia have been relatively untouched. They would have had more if it wasn’t for Phylloxera and the demand from the Soviets to plant high-yielding, disease-resistant varietals. There are not believed to be around 525 indigenous grape varieties - that’s a lot to learn and explore, so here are two of our favourites.
Rkatsiteli (რქაწითელი) – A white grape, the name translates as “red stem” or “red horned”. Grown throughout Georgia and is now grown in parts of Australia and American regions such as the Finger Lakes. The variety is incredibly versatile and can be used to make sparking, still and quality sweet wines. It has naturally high acidity and makes refreshing, balanced wines that can ripen fully while keeping a good balance.
Saperavi (საფერავი) – A commonly planted red grape also found in Ukraine, Moldova and Australia. The name literally translates as “Paint dye” and would have traditionally been used to give blends colour and body. It’s the most planted red grape variety planted in Georgia and makes high-quality single-variety red wines now. The wines have a fleshy, dense, juicy core with good natural acidity and grippy, grainy tannins. It makes it excellent with grilled meats or charcuterie.
A Sense of Place
Georgia followed the rest of Europe by adopting a PDO (Protected designation of origin) system, there are currently 24 appellations in total. These appellations are based across a number of diverse regions, here are a couple of our favourites.
Kakheti (კახეთი) - Arguably one of the most important grape-growing regions in the county and well-known for producing high-quality wines. It was formed in the mid-90s and is located in the far eastern part of the county. Vines are planted between 400 to 700 meters above sea level. Like any region in Georgia, there’s a wide variety of grapes planted, there are international varieties found here, also well known for producing Saperavi.
Imereti (იმერეთი) – Is in the central-western part of the country along the Rioni River. In terms of soil & climate, it’s one of the most diverse wine regions in the country. Like many other wine regions here, Imereti winemakers commonly use Qvevri here.
The Qvevri is a large egg-shaped vessel used for winemaking. If you look around most modern wineries anywhere in the world now, you’ll likely find a Qvevri or egg-shaped vessel being experimented with. Modern winemakers are looking back at this vessel for inspiration, it’s a more sustainable, natural way of making wine that requires less intervention. The oldest known discovery of a Qvevri dates to at least 6000 BC. It’s incredible that this technology has lasted over 8000 years and gives incredible, unique results for winemakers.
Georgia Wine Tasting
If you’d like to taste a selection of Georgian wines paired with snacks, then join us on the 24th of August, you can buy tickets on our website.