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Archaeologists found traces of winemaking on 8,000-year-old pottery shards in Georgia, the tiny former Soviet republic claimed the crown as the world’s oldest wine producer. It was an affirmation for many long-standing fans of the country and its winemaking tradition, which is ancient and, at the same time, a grassroots movement. Georgia’s hallmark is white wines that stay in contact with their skins stalks and pips for months and further ferment in huge clay amphorae (qvevri) buried in the ground. It’s a trend that’s caught on elsewhere in the world, but its deep roots lie in Georgian culture. Traditional winemaking in Georgia has always been a home endeavour, infused with history, religion and mythology, and references dating to the fourth century. An oft-told legend relates how soldiers wove a piece of grapevine into the chain mail protecting their chests, so when they died in battle, a vine sprouted not just from their bodies, but their hearts.“Even where we think a culture like France or Italy is so wine-centric, Georgians just take it to a whole different level—much deeper than what we’re exposed,” said Taylor Parsons, an Los-Angeles sommelier, who has visited Georgian wine country three times.
Wines from over fifteen appellations are currently produced in Georgia. Approximately forty different grape varieties are used for wine manufacturing in Georgia. Wines are traditionally named after the location in which they are produced. Singular varietals bear the name of the grape from which they are produced.
In Georgia, wine has been made for more than 8,000 years—and people have been raising their glasses and toasting one another over tables filled with extraordinary food for just as long. The whole country produces wine, and the particular grape varietals all have their specific micro-zones scattered across the national territory. However, the most well-known region for producing Georgian wine is Kakheti, divided into the two micro-regions of Kvareli and Telavi. Then comes Imereti, Kartli, Svaneti, Adjara, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, and Abkhazia.
|FEW FINEST GEORGIAN WINES|
The traditional winemaking method Georgia uses calls for egg-shaped clay jars called qvevri. This technique caught the eye of UNESCO, which has listed it as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
What are some of the most important grape varietals and wines in Georgia?
Ojaleshi is grown on the mountain slopes above the banks of the Tskhenistskali River, particularly in the Samegrelo region of Western Georgia.
Saperavi produces rich dark red wines suitable for extended aging – up to fifty years. It can provide high alcohol levels and is used widely for mixing with other lesser types. Saperavi is one of the essential grapes used in Georgian red wines.
Mtsvane, or green in English, is another very essential grape varietal in Georgian winemaking. It is often mixed with Rkatsiteli to add an aromatic, fruity balance to the wine.
Variety of Georgian wines
Usakhelauri translates into English as “without name” or “nameless” and is an indigenous grape varietal. The name translates with the meaning of “priceless” or “beyond words” and perfectly describes the exceptional and unparalleled quality of the grape. Grown on the mountain slopes of Lechkhumi, the cultivation process is quite difficult and is characterized by a low harvest volume. Each year, only three tons of grapes can be harvested, leading to Usakhelauri wines being very expensive.
This is another very important grape varietal highly used in Georgian winemaking. Rkatsiteli also grows outside of Georgia, particularly in former Soviet countries.
Alexandreuli is considered to be one of the oldest grape varietals in Georgia.
Chinuri, or Chinebuli, translated into English as “excellent” is grown in the Kartli region. It reaches full maturity in late October and is usually used in sparkling wines by mixing Goruli
Mtsvane and Aligote.
What are the most common Georgian wines?
1. Tsinandali is a white wine made from a combination of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro-zones of Kvareli and Telavi in the Kakheti region.
2. Tvishi is a naturally semi-sweet white wine made from the Tsolikauri grape.
3. Alaznis Veli is a white semi-sweet wine made by mixing Rkatsiteli, Tsolikauri, Tetra, and other grape varietals grown in Western and Eastern parts of the country. The wine has a straw color and a harmonious taste.
4. Mukuzani, a dry red wine made from only Saperavi grapes grown in Mukuzani and Kakheti, is matured for three years in oak to give it flavor and complexity. It is one of the best dry red wines made from Saperavi.
5. Kindzmarauli is a high-quality naturally semi-sweet wine with a dark red color and is made from Saperavi grapes grown on the slopes of the Caucasian mountains in the Kvareli district, in the Kakheti region.
6. Khikhvi is a white dessert wine made from the Khikhvi grape cultivated in Kardanakhi, which has been producing wine in Georgia since 1924. The wine is an amber color and has a delicate taste.
7. Akhasheni is a naturally semi-sweet red wine produced from the Saperavi grape cultivated in Kakheti. The dark pomegranate color wine has a velvety taste with a chocolate character.
8. Khvanchkara, a high-end, naturally semi-sweet red wine is the blend of Mudzhuretuli and Alexandria grape varietals grown in the Khvanchkara vineyards in Racha. The wine has well-balanced tannins with a raspberry flavor. This dark ruby color wine is one of the most famous Georgian semi-sweet wines.