The country of Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Grapevine cultivation and wine production has been taking place for at least 8,000 years. The traditions of wine are considered entwined with and inseparable from the national identity.
Georgia has five main viniculture regions. The principal region is Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia’s grapes. Traditionally Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like France does. As with French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For example, 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.
The best-known Georgian wine regions are Kakheti (further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli), Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Adjara and Abkhazia.
Traditional Georgian grape varieties are not well known outside the region. Although there are nearly 400 varietals grown, only 38 varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture in Georgia.
Georgian wines are classified in one of six different ways: sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.
The better known Georgian wines include the following:
- Lelo is a port-type wine made from the Tsitska and Tsolikauri grapes. The wine has a rich harmonious taste with a fruity aroma and a beautiful golden colour.
- Akhasheni is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Saperavi grapes. The wine is dark-pomegranate in colour and has a harmonious velvety taste with a chocolate flavour.
- Khvanchkara is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Alexandrouli and Mudzhuretuli grapes. It is one of the most popular Georgian semi-sweet wines. It has a dark-ruby colour.
There are at least 17 different white wines, 16 red wines and 8 fortified wines produced in Georgia, all produced with grape varietals unique to the region. Though I wouldn’t consider Georgian wines a staple in North American wine stores, they do become available periodically. If you do come across one it would be well worth picking one up to try.