Georgia is considered by many to be the birthplace of wine. Its history can be traced back over 8000 years. The people of the South Caucasus discovered that, if wild grape juice was buried in a pit over winter, it turned into wine.
This led to Georgians cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, or Qvevri, to create wine. Sometimes for as long as 50 years.
Archaeologists have found Qvevri (Kveris) in a huge variety of different shapes, sizes and styles. They often show a highly skilled level of craftmanship, highlighting how much wine was revered by ancient Georgians. Qvevri are not just a piece of Georgian wine history, they are still used in Georgian wine production today and this process has been given heritage protection status by UNESCO.
The word wine has the same origin in all European languages. Linguists suggest it comes from the Georgian word “ghvino“
White wine made in Qvevri has an amber colour and becomes rich with tannins
Georgian wine making in recent history
During the old Soviet Union Georgia was known as Russia’s wine cellar. The country would export over 80% of its annual wine production to Russia. Quality was considerably less important than quantity. In 2006 however this changed when Russia imposed a crippling embargo on Georgian wine. The country was forced to look to the west for potential export markets. Its vineyards began to focus more on quality and marketing. They adapted their production techniques to suit new western tastes. Today Georgian wine is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. This has also been aided by the 2014 free trade agreement between Georgia and the European Union removing trade tariffs on Georgian wine.
Below is some information on the ten wine growing regions of Georgia.
Wine growing Areas of Georgia and their grape varieties.
There are 10 major winemaking regions in Georgia. They are distinguished by local grape varieties, wine making methods and wine and food traditions. Georgia has up to 530 wine varieties. This allows all its regions to have their own varieties and their different wines.
Kakheti is undoubtedly the country’s most important wine region, with the largest number of Protected Designations of Origin (14). Kakheti has the largest share of wines made in Georgia. Kakhetian Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Kisi, Khikhvi, Kakhuri Mtsvivani and other varieties are truly one of the best specimens of the country’s wine culture. Despite the fact that the Qvevri wine is made everywhere in Georgia, the Kakhetian Qvevri amber wine is somewhat different.
Imereti is primarily known for white wines. Tsitska, Tsolikouri and Krakhuna have become widely known abroad, redrawing the future of Georgian white wines. Wine in Imereti is made in both classic way and in Qvevri. Tsitska from Imereti is considered to be the best Georgian variety for making sparkling wine. Kvishkhuri (Goruli Mtskvane) grown in Sachkhere, Imereti, deserves a special mention, as well. Excellent red wines in Imereti are made from Otskhanuri Sapere, Dzelshavi and Aladasturi.
Kartli can surely be called the region for white wines. Chinuri and Goruli Mtsvane are the classics of the Kartli wines. The Kartli winemakers grow these two grape varieties to make wine in both the classic way and in Qvevri. Most importantly, these two varieties are best for making sparkling wines.
Racha joins the large family of Georgian grape varieties with its Alexandrouli and Mujuretuli. These two are used for making Khvanchkara, the Racha Protected Designation of Origin wine. Rachuli (Tsulukidze) Tetra and Tsolikouri top the white wine list.
Lechkhumi is famous for Tsolikouri and Usakhlelouri. Tsolikouri makes excellent Tvishi, the Lechkhumi Protected Designation of Origin wine, while Usakhelouri has long established itself as the most valuable and rare wine of the country.
Guria and Chkhaveri are inseparable. This variety symbolizes the region. The amber and rosé wines made from it bring the Georgian viticulture and winemaking to a whole new level.
Samegrelo. Georgian wine, is hard to imagine without Ojaleshi. The mountainous and foothill villages of Samegrelo are the best places for growing Ojaleshi. Here, in this area, just as in Guria, grew their vines on the trees.
Meskhet-Javakheti is one of the oldest areas of viticulture and winemaking in Georgia. Many of the Kakhetian or Kartli varieties presumably originate from Meskheti. The peculiarity of Meskhetian wine growing deserves particular emphasis, as it entails the terrace vines, being the unique phenomenon for Georgian wine culture.
Adjara is important in the subtropical zone with local Chkhaveri grape and vineyards built in mountainous regions. The old valleys of Adjara cherish the ancient Adjarian varieties – Chodi, Satsuravi, Brola, Khopaturi.
Abkhazia has unique varieties of grape, (Avasirkhva, Amlakhu, Kachichi, Agbishi) and some other West Georgian varieties, too, such as Tsolikouri, Chkhaveri.