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Wine Tourism

The country of Georgia, regarded as the cradle of winemaking, hosts one of the oldest winemaking cultures in the world.

The importance of wine to this nation of four million is hard to exaggerate. Above the capital, Tbilisi, a giant statue of Mother Georgia holds a sword to ward off enemies and a bowl of wine to welcome friends. Every house has a trellis of vines outside it, with grapes ripening for the yearly pressing. Wine is a badge of pride here, and a symbol of hospitality; it’s central to religious worship and family life. Wine production is a link to the past and an expression of national identity.

Based on climate and soil characteristics, Georgia is divided into five main wine producing regions: Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and the Black Sea Subtropical Zone. Among the best-known regions of Georgia where wine is produced are Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Kvemo Svaneti and Abkhazia.

Kakheti

Kakheti is located in the South-eastern part of Georgia, in the basin of the rivers Alazani and Iori.

Kakheti is the most important wine region in Georgia in quantitative, qualitative and even historic terms. Almost three-quarters of the country's wine grapes are grown here, on land that has been used for viticulture for thousands of years. In June 2013, when Russia lifted its seven-year ban on Georgian wine imports, the first wines across the border were from Kakheti wineries.

The principal grape varieties used in Kakheti's red wines (Saperavi and Cabernet Sauvignon) establish a balance between east and west, traditional and modern, Georgian and French. Their white counterparts are made mostly from Rkatsiteli and Kakhuri Mtsvani grapes.

Imereti

Imereti is a central Georgian province situated on the upper reaches of the Rioni River.

Imereti wines are something mysterious and little-known. Though the fame of Kakheti wine is known around the world, few people have heard about Imereti wines. However the roots of local viniculture tradition can be traced back to the times of the legendary Kolkhida, Imereti has an own special technology of wine-producing as well. There is almost no villages with "talking names" in Imereti. Little known Gelati wine variety is produced somewhere here, as well as Argveti portwain and Tsitska white whine. As a whole Imereti wines are weaker than wines of Kakheti, and usually little sourer. Krakhuna is considered to be the most “Imeretian” wine here. It is difficult to find imereti wines – as everybody drink Tsolikauri, while all the rest are rarely sold.

Racha Lechkumi

Racha-Lechkhumi is one of Georgia's smallest wine regions, wedged between Imreti to the south and the Greater Caucasus (Caucasus Major) mountains to the north. But despite its diminutive size, it remains one of the most important wine regions in the country.

Almost all wines from Racha-Lechkhumi vineyards are sweeter than their western European counterparts, as a result of the extremely high sugar levels created by the sunny climate. The white wines are based on the three Ts: Tetra, Tsitska and Tsolikouri (Bazaleturi), and the reds are based on Alexandrouli, Mujuretuli (Keduretuli), Usakhelauri, Orbeluri Odzhaleshi and Saperavi.

Traditional Winemaking

The traditional winemaking method produces a naturally stable wine with great potential for aging. These wines, fermented with natural yeasts, have a natural brilliance and transparency, unique taste and aroma. There are high concentrations of tannins, alcohol and extracts. The high tannins are responsible for the natural clarity of qvevri wine.

Wines produced in the qvevri require no chemical stabilizers or preservatives. The balance of temperature maintained in the qvevri eliminates the need of using commercially produced yeasts, which can decrease the aging potential of the wines.

Grapes/skins, stems and pits are left in the qvevri during approximately the first six months fermentation. The unique shape of the qvevri prevents these deposits from affecting the wine. During fermentation, pits and other materials separate from the wine by settling at the bottom of the qvevri. It is believed that wine fermented with the stems and pits are more healthy than wines produced via European style methods. After six months the wine is then moved either to another qvevri for further aging or may be bottled, depending on the winery.

The cone-shaped qvevri is a large (800-3500 litres) earthenware vessel originally from Georgia. It dates back to about 8000 BC. It is coated inside with beeswax and is used for the fermentation and storage of wine. Qvevris are often buried below ground level.

Grape Varieties

There are about 500 endemic varieties of vines in Georgia, which are unique varieties in the world. Depending on climate about thirty categories of grapes are found throughout regions of Georgia: the Kakheti region is famous for its Saperavi, Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane. The Imereti region is famous for the Tsitska and Krakhuna; Guria and Abkhazia Regions for Tsolikauri and Chkhaveri; Samegrelo region for Ojaleshi; Racha-Lechkhumi for Usakhelouri, Aleksandrouli and Tsulukidzes Tetra.


For More Information

Georgian National Wine Agency

Georgian Wine Association