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People around the world might have recently noticed that Georgian wines have started to appear on the wine lists of their favourite restaurants.
There seems to be something new and exciting about this particular wine country that it's creating a buzz all over. It’s exciting, yes - but it is definitely not new. According to some, even the English word ‘wine’ comes from the Georgian word ‘ghvino’.
A Tradition of Wine-Making
Georgia has been making wine for thousands of years. 8,000 years, to be more precise. You might want to think about that for a second. That is a long, long time.
Nestled in a corner between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia has been a significant crossroads for thirsty travellers throughout ages. Wine is a fundamental part of Georgian culture and is deeply intertwined with its people. It is common for families to grow grapes and make their own wine. We often associate wine with a Mediterranean lifestyle but no one else live and breath wine more than the Georgians.
The Original Trendsetter
Georgians perfected a wine production method using an underground vessel called kvevri, or qvevri. These containers were used for fermentation and ageing of wine, and this practice is still widely used in Georgia.
The kvevris are buried underground with only the upper neck of the vessel remaining visible. Once the grapes are harvested and crushed, the juice goes into the kvevri, usually with grape skins, stalks and all. Same goes for both red and white wines. This method has gained momentum worldwide, and nowadays you can find wines made by using kvevris, or amphoras, in almost every wine country. You could call it a trend, but for Georgians, it has been a way of life for thousands of years. This specific wine-making method is featured on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Georgian Grape Varieties
Georgia has an impressive array of indigenous grape varieties. The most notable varieties are the red Saperavi and the white Rkatsiteli. Georgia’s varietal treasure chest is still mostly unknown in the rest of the world. Autochtonous grape varieties are unique, and there is definitely a growing interest in the world of wine towards the less-known varietals.
As a wine country, Georgia can be roughly divided into two parts: west and east. In volume, the wine region of Kakheti in Eastern Georgia is by far the most significant area of production in Georgia. The deep-coloured red wines of Mukuzani, made from Saperavi, would probably be among the first wines to find its way into your glass when visiting Georgia. The fragrant Tsinandali, a white blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane from Kakheti, is also a popular choice.
In all honesty, the history of Georgian wine and its numerous indigenous grape varieties, wine regions and smaller appellations combined with the unique way of making wine makes Georgia the least boring wine country on the planet. The highly enticing, and slightly intoxicating, mixture of the delicious cuisine, famous Georgian hospitality and a shot of Chacha will make you never want to leave - believe me!
Georgian Wines to Try
In case you find yourself craving a glass of Georgian wine, try these:
Satrapezo, Saperavi 2012
This wine spent time in both kvevri and barrique which is perhaps the reason behind the sturdy yet elegant mouthfeel. Lock this in your wine cellar and hide the key.
Pheasant’s Tears, Tavkveri 2013
This wine is produced from a local grape variety Tavkveri and has some lovely cherry and floral notes with some raunchy tannins to match. A relatively unknown grape variety that makes some seriously tasty wine.
Vinoterra, Mtsvane 2014
Georgia is not only about red wine. This rich and herbal white wine with a backbone is a prime example of the potential of Georgian white wines. A fresh Mtsvane is extremely food friendly.
This Saperavi is all about blackcurrant, cherries and herbal notes. The mouth-tearing tannins are balanced by an intense and ripe fruity vibe that lingers for days. Age-worthy.