Forget France or Italy. The country with the longest wine growing pedigree is in fact Georgia. Yes, that’s Georgia the country, not to be confused with Georgia the US state. Scholars have estimated that wine has been grown on the slopes of this region of the Caucasus for over 8000 years. Some people even claim that the Georgian language’s curly script is modelled on the tendrils of the vines, though that might be pushing it a bit. Here’s why you should visit some unique Georgian Wineries.
They do things a little differently in Georgia
The vines may look the same, but when the grapes are harvested things start to get a little weird. You see, in Georgia, you won’t find barrels in cellars. Instead, the fermented grape juice is stored in clay pots lined with beeswax. They are known as kvevris, and these earthenware vessels are sealed and then buried underground. They’re stored like that for up to fifty years and dug up for the wine to be served at ground temperature.
A wide range of grape varieties
As you might expect of a country with such a long tradition of viticulture; there are a plethora of indigenous grape varieties from which to choose. Among the 500 or so types, one of the oldest is the Chinuri grape. You’ll find it widely grown in Eastern Georgia and especially in the Inner Kartli region. It ripens late, in October, but makes a high quality light table wine. Rkatsiteli is the most commonly grown of all, found countrywide. It’s ready in late September and makes fine Kakheti table wines as well as excellent dessert wines. The juice of Saperavi grapes is coloured and so they are often used to improve the depth of colour of red wines. Also widespread, this one typically makes a semi-sweet wine or dessert wine.
Schedule a wine tasting while you’re in Georgia
One of the most pleasant ways to spend the afternoon in Georgia is to visit a winery. The Kakheti region is the best place to head, as it’s a region with a long wine making tradition. You’ll notice that some of the whites are amber and the rose looks like red. The skins of the grape varieties here often carry more pigment; so the wines can be darker in colour as a consequence. Many of the local towns and villages have wineries that will put on tastings; try Tsinandali, Napareuli or Kisiskhevi for starters.
Unique Georgian Wineries
The attractive town of Signagi (Sighnaghi) is little more than an hour from the capital Tbilisi and well connected by public transport, making it the obvious choice for a day out. Once you’ve walked the ancient walls and haggled for felt slippers at the market, make your way to one of the most unique Georgian wineries, Pheasant’s Tears Winery near the centre of town. There, in the pleasant courtyard, surrounded by plants and of course kvevris, you can indulge in a personal or group wine tasting. Cheers!