Georgian wine

Not to be confused with Georgia (U.S. state) wine.

Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. The fertile valleys of the South Caucasus house the source of the world's first cultivated grapevines and neolithic wine production, from over 8,000 years ago.[1][2][3][4][5] Due to the many millennia of wine in Georgian history, and its key economical role, the traditions of its viticulture are entwined and inseparable with the country's national identity.

Among the best-known regions of Georgia where wine is produced are Kakheti (further divided onto micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli), Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, and Abkhazia.

UNESCO added the ancient traditional Georgian winemaking method using the Kvevri clay jars to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.[6]


Kvevri in Chateau Zegaani, Kakheti, Georgia
Bronze statue from the 7th century BC discovered during archaeological excavations in the city of Vani. This statue is the statue of a Tamada, a toast master, and as you see on the souvenir sheet it is sometimes considered as the symbol of the earliest wine making in the world. The sheet also pictures amphora that were used at this time to carry and to stock the wine. Stamp of Georgia, 2007.

The roots of Georgian viticulture have been traced back by archeology to when peoples of the South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was nourished by experience, and from 4000 BC inhabitants of the current Georgia were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, kvevris, in which to store their wine ready for serving at ground temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some may remain entombed for up to 50 years.

Wine vessels of every shape, size and design have been the crucial part of pottery in Georgia for millennia. Ancient artifacts attest to the high skill of local craftsmen. Among vessels, the most ubiquitous and unique to Georgian wine-making culture are probably the Kvevris, very large earthenware vessels with an inside coat of beeswax. Not only kvevris were used to ferment grape juice and to store up wine, but also chapi and satskhao; others yet were used for drinking, such as khelada, doki, sura, chinchila, deda-khelada, dzhami and marani.

The continuous importance of winemaking and drinking in Georgian culture is also visible in various antique works of art. Many of the unearthed silver, gold and bronze artifacts of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC bear chased imprints of the vine, grape clusters and leaves. The State Museum of Georgia has on display a cup of high-carat gold set with gems, an ornamented silver pitcher and some other artifacts dated to the 2nd millennium BC. From classical Antiquity, Georgian museums display a cameo depicting Bacchus, and numerous sarcophagi with wine pitchers and ornamented wine cups found in ancient tombs.

From the 4th century AD, wine has gained further importance in Georgian culture due to Christianisation of the country. According to tradition, Saint Nino, who preached Christianity in Kartli, bore a cross made from vine wood. For centuries, Georgians drank, and in some areas still drink, their wine from horns (called kantsi in Georgian) and skins from their herd animals. The horns were cleaned, boiled and polished, creating a unique and durable drinking vessel.

During Soviet times wines produced in Georgia were very popular. In comparison with other wines from Moldavia and Crimea that were available on the Soviet market Georgian wines had been more preferable for Soviets. In 1950 vineyards in Georgia occupied 143,000 acres, but in 1985 already 316,000 acres due to increasing demand. In 1985 wine production was 881,000 tons. During Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, many old Georgian vineyards were cut off.[7]

Georgian wine has been a contentious issue in recent relationships with Russia. Political tensions with Russia have contributed to the 2006 Russian embargo of Georgian wine, Russia claimed Georgia produced counterfeit wine. It was an "official" reason, but instability of economic relations with Russia is well known, as they use the economic ties in political purposes.[8] Counterfeiting problems stem from mislabelling by foreign Producers and falsified “Georgian Wine” labels on wines produced outside of Georgia and imported into Russia under the auspices of being Georgian produced.[8] Some winemakers in Georgia have also been known to import grapes and produce “falsified” Georgian Wine, leading then defense minister Irakli Okruashvili to note in 2006 that “[He thought] several wineries that are still producing fake wine in Gori should be closed”.[9] The shipment of counterfeit wine has been primarily channeled through Russian managed customs checkpoints in Russian occupied Georgian territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where no inspection and regulation occurs.[8]

Georgia is optimistic its recent Association Agreement with the European Union will expand its export markets and reduce the risk presented by any future unilateral embargoes by Russia.[10]

Viticulture in Georgia today

Georgian vineyard.

Georgia ranks 2nd (in terms of volume) in grape production in the former Soviet Union behind Moldova, and Georgian wines have always been the most highly prized and sought after in the Soviet space. Presently, the wine is produced by thousands of small farmers (using primarily traditional techniques of wine-making), as well as certain monasteries. Modern wineries such as Teliani Valley,Gevelli, Giuaani, Telavis Marani, Tbilvino, Kindzmarauli Marani, Badagoni and Mukhrani also produce it.[11]

According to Minister of Agriculture of Georgia wine production has increased from 13.8 millions wine bottles in 2009 to 15.8 millions wine bottles in 2010 with bottle size 0.75 l. In 2009 Georgia exported 10.968 millions bottles of wine in 45 countries. In 2010 Georgia exported wines in: Ukraine - about 7.5 millions bottles, Kazakhstan - about 2.0 millions bottles, Belarus - about 1.2 millions bottles, Poland - about 870 thousands bottles and Latvia - 590 thousands bottles.[12]

Growing conditions

Georgia territorial and climate conditions are optimal for wine-making. Extremes of weather are unusual: summers tend to be short-sleeve sunny, and winters mild and frost-free. Natural springs abound, and the Caucasian Mountain streams drain mineral-rich water into the valleys. Georgia's moderate climate and moist air, influenced by the Black Sea, provide the best conditions for vine cultivating. The soil in vineyards is so intensively cultivated that the grape vines grow up the trunks of fruit trees eventually hanging down along the fruit when they ripen. This method of cultivation is called maglari.[13]

Georgian Grape Varieties

Vineyards in Kakheti.

Traditional Georgian grape varieties are little known in the World. Now that the wines of Eastern and Central Europe are coming to international awareness, grapes from this region are becoming better known. Although there are nearly 400 to choose from, only 38 varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture in Georgia:[14]

Red grapes
  • Aladasturi
  • Alexandrouli (Alexandreuli, Alexsandrouli)
  • Arabeuli Shavi
  • Arabeuli Tsiteli
  • Asuretuli Shavi (Shaltrauben, Shala)
  • Berbesho
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chkhaveri
  • Chumuta
  • Gianni
  • Danakharuli
  • Dzvelshava
  • Gabekhauri Shavi
  • Izabella
  • Kapistoni Shavi
  • Katchitchi
  • Meskhuri Shavi
  • Mtevandidi
  • Mujuretuli
  • Otskhanuri Sapere
  • Ojaleshi is cultivated on the mountain slopes overhanging the banks of the Tskhenis-Tskali river, particularly in the Orbeli village and Samegrelo district (Western Georgia).
  • Paneshi
  • Saperavi produces substantial deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging, up to fifty years. Saperavi has the potential to produce high alcohol levels and is used extensively for blending with other lesser varieties. It is the most important grape variety used to make Georgian red wines.
  • Skhilatubani
  • Shavkapito
  • Tamaris Vazi
  • Tavkveri
  • Usakhelauri is cultivated mostly in the Zubi-Okureshi district in Western Georgia.

White grapes
  • Arabeuli Tetri
  • Brola
  • Budeshuri Tetri
  • Buera
  • Chinuri (Chinebuli)
  • Chvitiluri
  • Dondghlabi Tetri
  • Kapistoni Tetri
  • Khikhvi is grown in Kardanakhi.
  • Krakhuna
  • Kundza Tetri
  • Melikuda
  • Mtsvani (or Mtsvane) is also important in Georgian wines, and is often blended with Rkatsiteli to which it adds a fruity, aromatic balance. In the Georgian language Mtsvane means green.
  • Mtsvivani kakhuri
  • Mtsvivani Rachuli
  • Qisi
  • Rkatsiteli is a variety that is so widely grown in Eastern and Central Europe that it ranks third in the world in hectares grown. It is the most important grape varietiy used to make Georgian white wines.
  • Sakmiela
  • Tsitska
  • Tsolikauri
  • Tsulukidzis Tetra

Saperavi grapes

Georgian wine varieties

Saperavi Wines

Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. Georgian wines are classified as sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.


See also list of Georgian wine appellations.


Kindzmarauli Wine

See also list of Georgian wine appellations.


Wine styles

Wine-producing regions of Georgia

Grapes in Kakheti region.

There are five main regions of viniculture, the principal region being Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia's grapes. Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For instance, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.

Guria Samegrelo

Georgian Wine Catalogue

The first online Catalogue of Georgian Wine with an independent rating system was launched in 2014. It allows users to enter names of specific wines and get ratings and information about the producer.[18] The catalogue is targeted primarily at consumers who buy Georgian wines in the world's wine stores.[19]

See also


  5. Spilling, Michael; Wong, Winnie (2008). Cultures of The World Georgia. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7614-3033-9.
  6. Georgian Winemaking Makes UNESCO Protected Heritage List RIA Novosti
  7. Georgia the home of wine
  8. 1 2 3 Georgia: Official Says Position Unchanged On Russian WTO Negotiations April 30, 2007 Radio Free Europe
  9. Georgia/Russia: Georgian Agriculture Minister In Moscow For Talks On Wine Ban April 13, 2006
  10. "Georgia's long road to Europe". BBC News. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  11. "Viticulture in Georgia today". 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
  12. Выросло производство вина в Грузии
  13. Goldstein, Darra (1958). The Georgian feast: the vibrant culture and savory food of the Republic of Georgia. United States: University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 0-520-21929-5. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  14. Caucasian review. Institut zur Erforschung der UdSSR. 1958. p. 70. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  15. Tamara Dragadze. Rural Families in Soviet Georgia: A Case Study in Ratcha Province, Routledge, 1988, ISBN 0-415-00619-8, p. 7
  16. David R. Farber. Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors, University of Chicago Press, 2002, ISBN 0-226-23804-0, p. 146
  17. Glenn Randall Mack, Asele Surina. Food Culture In Russia And Central Asia, Greenwood Press, 2005, ISBN 0-313-32773-4, p. 10
  18. "An Online Buyer's Guide to Georgian Wine is Launched". “”. New York. March 27, 2014.
  19. "Georgian wine catalogue launched". “”. Tbilisi. February 1, 2014.
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