Georgia is unquestionably the birthplace of wine. Grape seeds have been found in Caucasian tombs 8000 years ago, along with wine implements such as clay vessels. Nowhere else in the world is the evidence of viniculture so old.
Indeed the word "wine" is traced to Georgian word "ghvino", which has been in use for much longer than most modern languages have existed. Probably there is no country where wine is more revered and a wine culture so developed and cherished. There are about 500 indigenous species of grape (most used for wine) far more than anywhere else, most of them still completely unknown to the rest of the world. Here you can taste unique varieties of wine in a vast array of subtle flavor differences.
Nowadays wine is still produced exactly the same way it was before. Grapes are placed in large earthenware vessels called ‘qvevri,’ large enough to fit a person inside, buried in the ground up to their necks. These special wine vaults are then sealed and left to fermentation for three or four months. It makes wine rich on tannin and vitamins, completely organic and distinctively flavorful.
Georgian wine is so pure and untainted by artificial ingredients (such as sulphites), that hangover is practically unknown by those who drink it properly.
Visit any home in the wine-growing region of Kakheti and be greeted at the door by a glass of traditionally made home-produced wine – a tradition dating back at least three thousand years, and a delight to any traveler. Make sure you try homemade white wines, or chacha!
Georgia's moderate climate and moist air, influenced by the Black Sea, provide the ideal conditions for wine culturing. Names like Saperavi, Mukuzani, Teliani are becoming increasingly familiar to wine connoisseurs around the world. We are more than proud to show off the process that takes these fine grapes from vine to bottle – and then of course, to the table.
We treasure our wine and our wine traditions over all else – and invite you to taste the fruit of our labor for yourself.
Short Wine List: Rkatsiteli creates a robust white wine, which is full of character. Mtsvane is popular as a blending partner for Rkatsiteli but also has its own vital qualities. Saperavi the primary red variety provides vintages, which are powerful and fiery, with an aroma consisting of plums, spices and almonds. In the regions of Kacheti Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara and Akhasheni it also acquires a naturally cultivated sweetness.
Georgia has an 8,000 year history of continuous wine making tradition, which is evidenced numerous archaeological discoveries. Georgians have shared the love for the grape the time immemorial and remains loyal to it through to modernity. Numerous displays related to wine making practices dating to millennia have been kept in Georgian museums.
Archaeologists discovered several grape pips of ancient millennia in Kvemo Kartli, to the south of Tbilisi, in the Marneuli Valley, in the ruins of the Dangreuli Gora. In accordance with morphological and ampelographic features, they then assigned the pips to a cultivated variety of grapevine, Vitis Vinifera Sativa.
The earliest traces of viticulture and wine were found in the ancient Neolithic settlements in the neighborhood of Dangreuli Gora (Shulaveri Hill, Cut Hill, Khrami Big Hill, Arukhlo Hill, Khizanaant Hill and others). Besides grape seeds, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of cultural wheat and legumes, agricultural implements and pottery, proving that in the Neolithic period, the inhabited humans developed agricultural activities including viticulture and wheat growing.
The fragments of clay wine vessels found during excavations of the settlements testify to the fact that as early as the Neolithic period there was not a fledgling, but rather an already well-developed stage of agriculture, indicating that people started the domestication of the vine on the territory of Georgia an even earlier period.
The qvevri vessels dating the Neolithic era were discovered during different archaeological excavations, as were cultural vine fossil seeds, tartaric acid sediment on the fragments of earthenware vessels for wine and resin the domesticated grapevine. The diversity of the wild and indigenous grape varieties, the unique wine vessel (the qvevri) and the oldest technologies of making wine by qvevri all confirm that Georgia is truly an ancient wine making country.
Of the artifacts the Shulaveri-Shomu Tepe period, a ceramic vessel for wine found in Didi Gora (Khrami Big Hill), believed by scientists to be an ancestor of the qvevri which deserves the greatest attention. Currently, it is exhibited in the National Museum of Georgia and is considered the world’s oldest wine vessels.
Since the pagan period, wine has had a ritual and mystical destination. In Georgian folk belief, the Aguna, or Angura, is considered a patron saint of viticulture. In Guria, the sacrifice ritual to Aguna is still well preserved as a theatrical performance.
With the spread of Christianity and wine’s association with the blood of Christ, vineyards and wine in Georgia gained even greater importance. A disseminator of Christianity named St. Nino appeared in Georgia with a cross tied with vine branches. Holy wine has always been made in large quantities in monasteries and old cellars (Marani) still remain in many monasteries. Georgians considered the wine a holy drink and often donated it to the saints and the church. This wine is called Zedashe.
The majority of linguists agree that semantic meaning of the word “wine” is rooted only in Georgian language, and supposedly it is derived the verb “Ghvivili”. The root of the word, “ghv,” is purely Georgian and is found in many Georgian words.
Wild sorts of vine are still spread throughout Georgian territory. the 1980s, the forest vine has been included on Georgia’s the red list as an object of state protection. Along with the wild vine, over 500 Georgian domesticated vine types are described in Georgia. Of those, around four hundred thirty are protected in various state and private collection vineyards.
Georgian architecture has been influenced by many civilizations. There are several different architectural styles for castles,towers, fortifications and churches. The Upper Svaneti fortifications, and the castle town of Shatili in Khevsureti, are some of the finest examples of medieval Georgian castle architecture. Other architectural aspects of Georgia include Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi in the Hausmann style, and the Old Town District.
Georgian architecture is an amazing mixture of ancient, vintage and modern. Cave towns, old churches and cathedrals, medieval towers in the mountains, city walls and fortresses that have witnessed so many historical events… It all is just near the elegant buildings from the XIX century and bold modern constructions.
Take a walk through Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi, visit Vardzia, Shatili and Mestia, and
let your eyes enjoy the diversity of the Georgian architecture!Georgian ecclesiastic art is one of the most notable aspects of Georgian Christian architecture, which combines classicaldome style with original basilica style forming what is known as the Georgian cross-dome style. Cross-dome architecture developed in Georgia during the 9th century; before that, most Georgian churches were basilicas. Other examples of Georgian ecclesiastic architecture can be found outside Georgia: Bachkovo Monastery in Bulgaria (built in 1083 by the Georgian military commander Grigorii Bakuriani), Iviron monastery in Greece (built by Georgians in the 10th century), and the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem (built by Georgians in the 9th century).
The art of Georgia spans the prehistoric, the ancient Greek, Roman, medieval, ecclesiastic, iconic and modern visual arts. One of the most famous late 19th/early 20th century Georgian artists is a primitivist painter Niko Pirosmani.
18 appellations of origin of wines that have been registered in Georgia
Tsinandali – is a dry white wine. It is made wine grape varieties of Rkatsiteli and Kakhetian Mtsvane. The wine is characterized by its light straw color, and its harmonious, refined and developed bouquet and specific varietal aroma. The micro-zone is located in Kakheti region, on the right bank of the river Alazani.
Gurjaani – is a dry white wine. The Gurjaani wine is characterized by a light straw color, harmonious, full bodied and refined taste with varietal specific aromas and well developed bouquet. It is made Rkatsiteli grape variety. The micro-zone includes the villages of Shida Kakheti in the middle part of the river Alazani.
Vazisubani – is a dry white wine. It is characterized by a light straw color, harmonious taste and cheerful, developed bouquet with floral tones. The Vazisubani wine is made of Rkatsiteli and Kakhetian Mtsvane grape varieties, with complete fermentation with the must. The micro-zone is located in the middle part of the Alazani River.
Manavi - is a dry white wine. The wine is characterized by colors ranging light straw to straw, with a greenish tint, gentle taste, and harmonious and delicate fruity tones, varietal specific aromas and developed bouquet. The wine is made the Kakhetian Mtsvane grape variety, and the use of about 15% of the Rkatsiteli variety is allowed. The micro-zone is located in Gare Kakheti.
Kardenakhi - is a fortified white wine. The wine is characterized by an amber color, varietal specific aroma, harmonious honey fragrance. It is made Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi and Kakhuri Mtsvane grape varieties by leaving behind the crushed grapes and fermentation with must in the process. The micro-zone is located within the territory of the village of Kardenakhi of the Gurjaani district in Kakheti.
Tibaani – is a dry white wine. It is characterized by a dark amber color, sort-specific aroma, well-defined and extracted bouquet, velvety taste and raisin tones. The wine is made the Rkatsiteli grape variety with total fermentation on the skins using traditional Kakhetian methods. The micro-zone is located in Shida Kakheti, the eastern part of the right side of the Alazani Valley.
Napareuli – are dry white and dry red wines. The white wine is made of Rkatsiteli and the wine is light straw-colored, with a well-defined bouquet and wild flower tone. The red wine is made of Saperavi and distinguished by dark red color, varietal specific aroma, velvety with well-developed bouquet. The micro-zone is located in the upper part of the Alazani River, on the left bank.
Tvishi – is a dry to semi-sweet wine. The wine is characterized by light straw to straw color; a tender, delicate, harmonious taste; fruity tones; varietal aroma and pleasant sweetness. It is made the Tsolikouri grape variety, with incomplete fermentation of the must. The vine growing micro-zone is located in Lechkhumi, Tsageri district, on the right bank of the Rioni River.
Atenuri – is a white sparkling wine. It is characterized by straw color, harmonious taste, fruity tones, and energetic flavor. It is made of Chinuri and Gori Mtsvane grape varieties. The Aligote grape variety is also allowed. The micro-zone is located in Shida Kartli, in the Gori administrative district.
Sviri – is a dry white wine. It is characterized by a dark straw-yellowish tint, fruity tones, developed and extracted fruit bouquet, harmonious. The wine is made Tsolikouri and Tsitska grape varieties. Krakhuna grape variety with fermentation with the must. The Sviri micro-zone is located in the Imereti region, on the left bank of the Kvirila River.
Kotekhi – are white and red dry wines. The white wine is made of Rkatsiteli grape variety with complete fermentation of the must. It is characterized by a light straw color, varietal specific aromas, and pleasant taste. The red wine is made of Saperavi grape variety, with complete fermentation of the must. It is characterized by its red color and varietal aroma with pleasant velvety taste. The micro-zone is located in the middle stream of the Alazani River, on the right bank.
Kindzmarauli – is a naturally semi-sweet red wine. The wine is characterized by a dark garnet red color, harmonious taste with full, velvety, delicate, pleasant sweetness, fruit tones and varietal aroma. The wine is made of Saperavi grape variety. The micro-zone is located in Shida Kakheti, Kvareli region.
Akhasheni – is a naturally semi-sweet red wine. It is characterized by a dark-pomegranate color, harmonious taste, velvety sweetness, fruit tones and varietal aromas. It is made the Saperavi grape variety. The Akhasheni micro-zone is located in Shida Kakheti region, in the middle belt of the Alazani River.
Kvareli – is a red white wine. It is characterized by dark red color, varietal aromas, balance and a distinctive bouquet. It is made of Saperavi grape variety, with complete fermentation with the must. The micro-zone is located in Kakheti, Kvareli region, on the left bank of the Alazani River.
Mukuzani – is a dry red wine. It is characterized by a dark pomegranate color, full bodied taste, harmonious, velvety, delicate, well-expressed variety specific aromas and bouquet, and high-extract flavors. It is made Saperavi grape variety. The micro-zone is located in Shida Kakheti, Gurjaani district, on the right bank of the Alazani River gorge.
Teliani – is a dry red wine. It is characterized by a dark red color, pure varietal specific aromas and a spicy, harmonious, developed bouquet. The wine is made the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, cultivated in a Teliani zone in the territory between Kisiskhevi and Vantiskhevi with complete must fermentation. The micro-zone is located in Kakheti, in the middle belt of the Alazani River.
Khvanchkara – is a naturally semi-sweet red wine. It is characterized by a dark red color; harmonious taste; velvety, pleasant flavor; fruit tones and varietal aroma. Khvanchkara is a high-quality naturally semi-sweet red wine. It is made the Aleksandreuli and Mujuretuli grape varieties. The micro-zone is located in Racha, in the Ambrolauri district.
Kakheti – is a dry white wine. It is characterized by an amber colour, fruit aroma, pleasant taste, velvety and harmonious. It is made of Rkatsiteli and Kakhetian Mtsvane grape varieties, with fermentation with the must. The micro-zone is located in the basin of the Alazani and Iori Rivers.
Since ancient times Georgia has been known as a country of grapes and wine. Traditional Georgian wine is hardly imaginable without a qvevri. The history of making wine in traditional qvevri vessels has existed at least 8000 years and is till practiced today. Qvevri wine is unique for its rich chemical composition, its distinctive bouquet and taste and for its nutritional and curative qualities. The ancient Georgian traditional qvevri winemaking method is one of country’s cultural achievements and treasures. Wine has a crucial place in social interactions in Georgia, playing a role in the traditional hospitality of the country and facilitating friendship and good will.
Qvevri and Qvevri-making
Due to the uniqueness of ancient Georgian traditional qvevri winemaking method, the principles of producing and using vessels are very important. Qvevri is a traditional Georgian vessel used for making, ageing and storing wine. It is made of a type of clay historically used for qvevri-making in artisanal families according to traditional technology, these families possess the centuries-old knowledge of the ion of appropriate clay in their respective regions. Traditional places for qvevri making arevillages of Atsana (Guria), Mkatubani, Shrosha, Tqemlovana, Chkhiroula (Imereti), Vardisubani (kakheti). The vessel is buried in the ground, which guarantees an optimal temperature for the ageing and storage of wine and its egg-like shape favours the processes inside: the chacha (grape skins, stalks and pips) sinks to the bottom; the wine becomes enriched by its volatile and non-volatile elements; later wine is separated the latter and gets stabilized. Qvevri wine quality is also influenced by the quality of the qvevri cleaning process, which has to be done each year before making wine. In every village there are a few experienced qvevri cleaners. The cleaning process involves washing the vessel with herbal cleansers and water. Qvevris are traditionally disinfected with sulphur vapours. The internal surface is sometimes lined with beeswax, and the outer surface is traditionally covered with a lime-based mortar before burying.
The Qvevri winemaking tradition can be found throughout Georgia in rural as well as urban areas. Georgians consider it to be the most important attribute of their cultural identity. Traditional Georgian qvevri winemaking method is ancient, living culture and has changed little since its formation.
The basic technological process consists of pressing grapes in satsnakheli (wine press), pouring the must and the Ch’ach’a (grape skins, stalks and pips) into a qvevri. The mixture fills the vessel to around 80-85%. As fermentation progresses, the mixture is stirred 4-5 times daily. When fermentation has finished the qvevri is filled with the identical mixture and sealed, then left to age for 5-6 months.
The various qvevri winemaking methods were defined by factors such as soil or climatic conditions, the rich variety of endemic vines and differences between micro-zones.
a) The grape must is fermented, aged and stored in contact with its Ch’ach’a for 5-6 month (Eastern Georgia- “Kakhetian” method).
b) The grape must is fermented in qvevri with partial (2.5-3.0 %) addition of Ch’ach’a before removing the latter in November. The wine is left in the sealed qvevri to mature until spring (Western Georgia- Imeretian” method).
c) The crushed grapes are left the wine press for 4-5 days then the must is poured into a qvevri to continue fermenting and is left to mature until spring (Western Georgia, the Black Sea coast and Racha-Lechkhumi). Natural sparkling wines are thus produced in mountain areas.
Each method involves alcoholic fermentation using natural yeasts without any additives. The qvevri facilitates the processes of fermentation and ageing with the minerals that are part of its composition. This has a favourable effect on the taste and quality of the wine. By being placed underground, grape must bursting with the sun’s energy absorbs the energy of the soil and becomes part of nature.
The Georgian traditional method of qvevri winemaking is found all over the country, especially in regions like Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Guria, Abkhazeti, Samegrelo, Meskheti, Achara and the Tskhinvali region. Even in highland regions vines do not grow, grapes are delivered lowlands to make wine.
Knowledge and experience of winemaking is passed down through generations informally with direct involvement in the processes the family, neighbors, friends and relatives all join in harvesting and winemaking.
Qvevri wine as foundation of cultural identity.
The Georgian qvevri winemaking tradition is a clear example of how important intangible heritage is for creating and maintaining positive social interactions, and for the formation of cultural identity. Despite the fact that Georgia’s social and political environment has undergone several transformations in the last century, the tradition of qvevri making and winemaking using this unique vessel remains a key element of identity and reputation for Georgians. Wine cellars are still considered to be the holiest places in a family home. Traditionally, a sealed qvevri is opened for honoured guests, and families who make a good wine are respected by society.
Georgian oral and musical folklore is abundant with masterpieces dedicated to vines and wine. The viticultural and vinicultural terminology is rich and diverse. Wine continues to play an important role in everyday life of Georgians-during secular and religious events, as well as recurring rituals.The everyday meals of Georgian are also occasions to partake of the family wine.
The Georgian Orthodox Apostolic Autocephalous Church has played an important role in transmitting traditional knowledge of winemaking, especially as red wine is an inseparable attribute of the Liturgy. Traditional methods of winemaking continue to live on in centuries-old monasteries around the country, and many church communities (for example the monks of Alaverdi, Nekresi, Shavnabada and Martvili) are active in traditional winemaking.
According to ancient chroniclers, Georgia was Christianized in the 4th century AD by the Cappadocian nun, Saint Nino, who made a cross of vine branches. In Georgia, the “tree of life” is traditionally represented as grape-bearing vine that also symbolizes the Virgin Mary . The 11th century polyphonic hymn “Thou art a vine” dedicated to the Virgin Mary remain very popular to this day.
As proof of its cultural significance, and in accordance with principles of Convention on Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO, the status of National Monument of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been assigned to “The ancient Georgian tradition of Qvevri winemaking” in 2012.