Winemaking in Georgia
Georgia - The oldest wine producer
8,000 of winemaking – that’s how Georgia got recognition as the homeland of wine. With so many wine diversities, native grapevine varieties and unique Qvevri winemaking techniques, Georgian wines are a must try for every wine admirer whether you prefer white, red or amber wines.
There are about 4,000 varieties of grapevines in the world, of which 525 are Georgian and about 30 varieties are used for winemaking. Wine is such an important part of Georgia that in the old Georgian language even October was called “gvinobistve”, that literally translates as month of wine. In most regions of Georgia, almost every family produces their own wine, made with traditional techniques, that they learn from the older generation. Homemade family wine is what any host will offer their guests and it’s always worth trying.
Being the world's oldest wine-producing country, Georgia is famous for having numerous small wineries, run by families, producing boutique wines, distinguished by quality, purity and complexity and diversity. More than 70% of Georgian wine is produced in the Kakheti region, where you can taste unique natural wines, produced with traditional methods. If you are new to Georgian wines, we suggest trying Qvevri wines, because that’s what makes Georgia unique in the winemaking industry.
Unique Method of Qvevri winemaking
The Qvevri winemaking method in Georgia started 8,000 years ago and today, Qvevri represents the UNESCO World Heritage. Georgian winemakers still make natural wines in qvevri as they were 8,000 years ago. White Qvevri wines are distinguished with deep amber color, thicker texture, spicier and rich with tannins. Red Qvevri wines have very strong tannic structures, deep aroma and dark garnet color.
Qvevri is the large clay vessel, without right-angles, used for the traditional Georgian winemaking method. This vinification technique involves placing ripe grapes with skins, stems and the lot in Qvevri and leaving to ferment for months. These large vessels are buried in the ground in cellars called Marani, where it constantly maintains the temperature of 13 ° -15 °, required for wine fermentation. In Qvevri, wines naturally and chronologically undergo the chemical processes that require special equipment and additives in factory production. This very natural method gives wine complexity and structure, maintains freshness and deepens wine aromas. It takes almost a year to build perfect Qvevri adding several centimeters to the vessel sometimes takes months. Winemakers want to make sure their vessel is perfectly built and ready to produce high quality wines. Qvevri capacity ranges from several hundred litres to several tonnes. Most widespread are Qvevri vessels with capacities of 1-2 tonnes.
Native Georgian grape varieties worth trying
There are dozens of red and white native grape varieties in Georgia, used to make high quality diverse wines such as Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Khikhvi, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Tavkveri, Kisi, Tsolikouri and many more. Every variety has its unique bouquet of aromas and character. Here are some of most famous varieties:
Saperavi is native Georgian red grape variety, originating from the eastern region of Kakheti. This unique and very old variety is Georgia’s most widely planted red grape, with marked acidity and deep inky, purple color. Word “Saperavi” translates as “something to color with,” or “dye” is a perfectly appropriate name to emphasize its intense color. This is one of few teinturier varieties in the world, with dark skin and pink-fleshed grape. Saperavi makes High-quality full-bodied red dry table wines with great potential for extended ageing. This variety is also widely used to make semi-sweet, full-on sweet, or fortified wines and regardless of how produced, Saperavi grapes give wines that are inky, often fully opaque, dark garnet, almost black color and profound texture. Saperavi wines are characterized by aromas of dark berries, licorice, chocolate, smoked meat, tobacco and spices.
This variety is also used to make rosé wines but leading wine varieties made from these grapes are – Saperavi, Napareuli, Mukuzani and Kindzmarauli. Saperavi wines are extremely versatile and have a harmonious taste, that you can pair with a wide variety of dishes, including delicate fish dishes, grilled meat or stews. Georgian farmers use both European and Georgian Traditional methods to make Saperavi wines, but to discover the richness and full potential of these exceptional grapes, we suggest trying wines made with a traditional method, using Qvevri.
Rkatsiteli is the native grapevine species originated from Georgian region of Kakheti. Cultivated for several millennia, this is one of the oldest and leading white grape varieties in Georgia, especially in Kakheti and Kartli regions. Rkatsiteli is cylindrical, with medium-sized bunches containing medium-sized, oval, pale-skinned berries and has obvious benefits due to its strong resistance to cold winter weather conditions and retaining acidity in hot summers.
Rkatsiteli is suitable to make high-quality, Full-bodied table wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines, fortified wines and brandy. It can achieve relatively high sugars while retaining noticeably acidic and balanced in taste.
Wines made from Rkatsiteli using European method, typically have subtle floral aromas and flavors of citrus, apples and quince. However, when vinified in Qvevri, Rkatsiteli wines have deep, amber color and are more powerful, with crisp acidity emphasizing flavors of honey, dried orange peel, spices, apricot and other stone fruits. Rkatsiteli made using the traditional method of Qvevri is a perfect example of trending so-called “orange wine”.
Since Rkatsiteli has mild aroma, it is often blended with other varieties, especially with Mtsvane Kakhuri. This enhances aromatic complexity and texture of Rkatsiteli wine and enriches with stronger character.
Mtsvane Kakhuri, also called Mtsvane, is white grape variation, widely spread in the Kakheti region. It’s one of six different Mtsvane varieties, cultivated in Georgia. Each Mtsvane variation has a different DNA fingerprint, and is named for the origin of its growth. Mtsvane Kakhuri accumulates sugar easily yet retains high acidity levels and along with dry wines is also suitable for sweet or fortified wines. When vinified in a European style, Kakhuri Mtsvane has more light, greenish color and aromas of fresh white peach, citrus and flowers. When vinified in Qvevri, it has darker amber color and expressed aromas of apricot and stone fruits.
In Georgian wines Mtsvane Kakhuri is often blended with varieties such as Kisi or Rkatsiteli and used to enhance aromas and add complexity to wines. The wine Tsinandali is a perfect example of such blend, which represents a mix of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane Kakhuri.
This very old native variety grows in Georgian region of Kakheti and is relatively rare than varieties such as Rkatsiteli. Khikhvi is white grapevine with medium-sized, greenish-yellow, thin-skinned berries and is suitable to produce light, dry, semi-sweet, sweet and fortified wines. When vinified in a European style Khikhvi wines are relatively light-colored, softer and with more floral aromas. Khikhvi Qvevri wines have darker amber color, more body and aromas of ripe fruit and yellow dried fruit. Khikhvi is also suitable for producing more light wines using both European and Qvevri winemaking methods.
From hundreds of wines, produced in Georgia it may be difficult to choose ones that truly resemble the uniqueness of Georgian wine. So how to choose perfect wine and what to look for when searching for new taste?
We suggest little guidance to make sure, you enjoy every glass of special Georgian wines:
- Look for small family wineries – generally they provide high quality wines, especially compared to big enterprises.
- Try wine more or less well-spread in Georgia such as Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Kisi and others. Rarest Georgian varieties in a pure form are difficult to find even in Georgia, unless you are certain in specific wine producers.
- Region is also important for Georgian wines – generally, grapes from micro-zones such as Tsinandali, Akhasheni, Kindzmarauli, Teliani, Manavi, Gremi, Mukuzani, Vazisubani and Tibaani reach full potential and are more intense in aromas and distinguished with taste.
On our website, we offer a diligently selected collection of Georgian wines, produced with Georgian traditional method of Qvevri winemaking. All wines are from small wineries, producing limited amounts of natural high-quality wines. For more information view the wine category.