If you have never had the opportunity to try the wines from Georgia, you may be asking yourself, is Georgian wine good? Understandable, the unknown can be scary and with many well-known wine-producing countries out there vying for the spotlight, you may even find it difficult to come across Georgian wines where you live. In France, Spain, & Italy, many wine drinkers would not even have thought that wine was being produced in Georgia – at least not anything their refined palettes would wish to consider. But they could not be further from the truth.
Georgian wine is not only good but also a fascinating journey through the birthplace of winemaking, steeped in history and tradition. It is said that Georgia is where wine was born, and its winemaking heritage is unrivaled. One of the most remarkable aspects of Georgian wine is the use of Kvevri, large clay vessels, which add to the uniqueness of their winemaking process. Let’s explore the reasons behind the excellence of Georgian wine.
The Cradle of Wine
There is still a bit of debate on the subject some say Georgia is indeed the birthplace of wine while others claim that Georgia is the second oldest wine-producing country in the world, second only to Armenia. In either case, wine has been a fundamental part of Georgian heritage. Dating back over 8,000 years, Georgia boasts some of the oldest traces of wine production on Earth. Excavations in the region have uncovered ancient wine vessels and grape seeds, with the most iconic discovery being the Kvevri. These clay jars, originating around 6000 BC, have provided solid proof of the ancient winemaking traditions in Georgia.
The Kvevri: A Symbol of Tradition
At the heart of Georgian winemaking lies the Kvevri, large clay vessels used to create and store wine. This iconic method has been a cornerstone of Georgian winemaking for millennia, allowing for a natural fermentation process that results in the development of unique flavors and characteristics. The Kvevri is emblematic of Georgian wine and is central to the preservation of their winemaking traditions. This wine-making method earned it a spot on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013.
Georgian wine production is a blend of ancient tradition and natural processes, creating wines with distinct flavors and character. While part of one of our Let’s Eat Georgia culinary holidays, you’ll learn quite a bit about the winemaking process that has been passed down by generations but here is a brief summary of the process before you get here.
- Harvesting Grapes: The process begins in the vineyards, where grapes are carefully handpicked. Georgia boasts over 500 indigenous grape varieties, each contributing to the diverse range of wines produced.
- Using Qvevri: A key element in traditional Georgian winemaking is the use of qvevri, large earthenware vessels buried in the ground. These vessels are used for fermenting, aging, and storing the wine.
- Natural Fermentation: Once harvested, the grapes are placed in the kvevri or qvevri, often with their skins, stems, and seeds. This is different from many modern winemaking methods where only the juice is fermented. The inclusion of grape skins, especially in white wines, imparts a distinctive amber color and adds complexity to the flavor profile.
- Fermentation Process: The fermentation process in kvevri is entirely natural. The cool temperature of the earth around the kvevri allows for a slow, steady fermentation without the need for temperature control mechanisms. This natural process helps to develop the wine’s unique flavors and aromas.
- Maturation: After fermentation, the wine remains in the kvevri for a period ranging from a few months to several years, depending on the type of wine being produced. During this time, the wine matures, developing depth and richness.
- Decanting and Bottling: Once the wine has matured, it’s carefully decanted from the kvevri to separate it from the grape skins and sediments. The wine is then ready to be bottled.
This traditional method of winemaking passed down through generations, gives Georgian wines their unique character – a true expression of the region’s terroir and heritage. The wines produced through this method are often organic and natural, with minimal intervention in the winemaking process.
When in Tbilisi, Be Sure to Try These 4 Places for Your Wine Tasting Experience:
- 8000 Vintages:
- Address: 4 Gudiashvili Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
- About: 8000 Vintages is a popular wine bar in Tbilisi with an extensive collection of Georgian wines. They offer an array of wines from different regions, allowing you to explore the diversity of Georgian viticulture.
- Vino Underground:
- Address: 15 Tabidze Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
- About: Vino Underground is a renowned natural wine bar, specializing in artisanal and traditional Georgian wines. They are committed to promoting the natural wine movement and offer an excellent selection for wine enthusiasts.
- Gotsa Family Wines:
- Address: 7 Bambis Rigi Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
- About: Gotsa Family Wines serves as both a wine bar and a winery. They focus on producing wines in traditional Kvevri and provide a warm and inviting environment to taste their unique creations.
- Winery Khareba:
- Address: 9b Agmashenebeli Avenue, Tbilisi, Georgia
- About: Winery Khareba is a well-known Georgian wine producer with a wine shop and tasting room in Tbilisi. Here, you can explore a wide range of their wines, including those aged in underground tunnels.
I hope that I have now managed to convince you that Georgian wine is not only good but exceptional. With a history dating back thousands of years, it is definitely unique and something worth trying. Now, not all wine was created equal but I invite you to visit Georgia, perhaps even on one of our Let’s Eat Georgia culinary vacations, and explore the wines of Georgia to determine which wine you enjoy the most. The use of Kvevri and the preservation of ancient winemaking traditions make Georgian wine a unique and delightful experience for any wine enthusiast. Enjoy! And of course, drink in moderation! See you in Georgia!