Georgia boasts more than 8,000 vintages and some of the world’s most fascinating winemaking traditions. Nevertheless, Georgian wine has come to the world wine map only recently… which makes it even more exciting to try.
Natural wines, amber wines, amphorae, fruit-forward reds, terroir-driven wines, indigenous grape varieties – Georgia seems to be on top of every single wine trend out there. However, for Georgians, these are not exactly trends. On the contrary, these are ancient winemaking traditions, several millennia old. No wonder the interest for Georgian wine is booming and the country itself has become a dream destination for wine lovers. Discover our exclusive range of Georgian wines in the UK.Browse Georgian wines
Georgian Wine HISTORY
Georgia: The Cradle Of Winemaking
Believe it or not, one of the oldest wine artefacts in the whole world was discovered in Georgia. In 2015, a group of scientists found ancient clay jars in the south-east of the country. These vessels contained traces of wine of an impressive age: 8,000 years old! Since this groundbreaking discovery, Georgia has been widely referred to as ‘the cradle of winemaking’.
For Georgians, wine is an important part of the culture. Indeed, it features in every meal. Moreover, no celebration is complete without long poetic toasts and ram horns filled with wine. In addition, vine and wine are sacred here. For example, locals believe that long time ago Georgians were converted to Christianity with… grape vine! According to the legend, in the 4th Century AD Saint Nino of Cappadocia arrived in the Kingdom of Iberia (part of modern Georgia). Nino carried a cross made of grape vine. It is with this cross that she baptised the Iberian king, Mirian III. Soon, the whole country followed. Nowadays, Saint Nino’s grapevine cross is a major symbol of Georgian Christianity. The cross is kept at the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Surrounded by powerful neighbours, Georgia often had to fight for its independence. Specifically, over the centuries this small mountainous country was invaded by Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Mongols, Arabs, Turks. Thus, wine became a symbol of the proud spirit of the Georgian nation and of its hard-won freedom. Interestingly, the statue “Mother Georgia” overlooking the capital, Tbilisi, holds a sword in one hand, and a wine cup in the other. And even the famous Georgian toast – “Gaumarjos” – literally means “victory”.
Georgian Wine In The 20th Century
In the 20th century Georgian winemaking went through a rough time. This was because under Soviet rule the focus was on quantity rather than quality. As a result, plantings of indigenous grapes were replaced with more productive varieties. At last, the new millennia brought a much needed change. In search of the identity of Georgian wine local producers focused on native varieties and unique winemaking traditions. Therefore today Georgian wine can easily compete with the finest examples from both New World and Old World. Indeed, these are authentic wines with plenty of character and a real sense of place.
Qvevri: The Famous Georgian Wine Method
Ever heard of amber a.k.a. orange wines? Well, qvevri is one of the best ways to make them, which has been proven by millennia of Georgian winemaking. In fact, the unique qvevri method is mainly responsible for the recent fame of Georgian wine in the UK.
Qvevri are large clay amphorae which are buried underground in big cellars called ‘marani’. In order to make wine, qvevri are filled with the pressed grape juice, skins, seeds and sometimes even parts of the stems. Afterwards, all of this is left to ferment for months.
Further on, the wine is carefully moved into a clean qvevri for ageing. No additives are used and only indigenous yeasts take part in fermentation, so these are some of the most interesting examples of natural wines.
The only downside of qvevri is that they are notoriously difficult to clean and maintain. This process requires special tools and hours of hard labour (in fact, to clean the qvevri, someone needs to climb into it).
Georgian Orange Wine
The most fascinating results are achieved with the white grapes fermented in qvevri. Because of the prolonged contact with the grape skin, the wine becomes amber in colour and gains body and tannins. At the same time, the aromas are shifted to another level. For example, orange peel, mandarin, walnuts, dried fruit, honey, herbs and tea leaves are some of the flavours of the qvevri-made amber wines.
Beware though, that this is not your usual white. Some people might find orange wines too intense, but they are incredible with savoury food. Indeed, Georgian orange wine wins over your heart gradually: the more you try it, the more you understand it.
Moreover, these days qvevri are becoming increasingly popular all over the world, with winemakers in Italy, Slovenia, France and Argentina experimenting with clay amphorae. In fact, in 2014 Georgian winemaking method Qvevri was even recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Explore qvevri-made Georgian wine in the UK!
Georgian Wine Styles: Off-dry & Medium Sweet
Another thing Georgia is famous for are its sweeter styles of wines. These wines are made from the grapes picked up slightly later than usual, when sugar levels are peaking. Thus, the sweetness always comes from the natural sugar found in the grapes. Vibrant, fresh and fruity, with delicate sweetness balanced by vivid acidity, these wines work wonders when paired with spicy flavourful food. Some of the most famous examples include Pirosmani and Alazani. Pirosmani is an off-dry wine, either red, made of Saperavi grape, or white, made of Rkatsiteli grape. On the other hand, Alazani is a medium sweet red wine made of Saperavi grape. At Wine Origins, we have carefully curated a selection of top off-dry and medium sweet Georgian wines in the UK.
Georgian WINE REGIONS
In 2003 Georgia delineated its wine regions and introduced Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs). PDO is a similar concept to French appellations. In fact, the same system works not only in France, but in most wine countries in the world. Specifically, PDO is meant to ensure the high quality and the authenticity of the wines. In Georgia, for PDO wines each production stage – from vineyard work to bottling – is controlled by a dedicated state agency. Moreover, a panel of experts checks the quality of Georgian wine before it can be labeled as PDO, as well as before it can be exported. The leading Georgian PDOs include are described below.
Some of the best dry reds come from Mukuzani PDO. Made from Saperavi, the king of Georgian black grapes, these are big bold reds, powerful and rich, which will swipe you off your feet with a myriad of aromas. Blackcurrants, blackberries, plum, smoke, tobacco, chocolate, liquorice and spices – just to name a few. The PDO is located ion the right bank of the Alazani River gorge (Kakheti region).
This iconic semi-sweet red wine from north-western Georgia has gained a cult following for its velvety texture and freshness coupled with delicate sweetness on the palate. Khvanchkara is made of rare Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli grapes. This charming wine bursts with aromas of cherry fruit, raspberries and plum along with its signature notes of violets.
If you are into fresh and crisp whites, like Chablis, Muscadet or Pinot Grigio, then you will like Tsinandali. This dry white from the Kakheti region is bright and vibrant, with refreshing aromas of apple, citruses, quince and delicate floral notes. In a word, pure summer in your glass. Tsinandali is made of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane Kakhuri grape varieties.
Another naturally semi-sweet red, this time made from Saperavi grapes, grown in the heart of the Alazani River valley (Kakheti region). Kindzmarauli is full of captivating exotic flavours with notes of sweet spice and raisins. Best examples have fine tannins and an elegant freshness.
With a gorgeous amber colour, fruity aromatics and full body, Kakheti PDO wines are made of Rkatsiteli and Kakhetian Mtsvane from vineyards at the meeting point of the Alazani and lori Rivers.
This delicate semi-sweet white wine is made of Tsolikouri grape which grows mainly in western Georgia. With charming aromas of sweet fruit – apricot, quince, pear, melon and elegant floral hints, this is a must-try if you like sweeter styles of Riesling or Chenin Blanc.
This versatile variety makes the majority of Georgian reds. Powerful, full-bodied, fruity and smokey, Saperavi is somewhat similar to Syrah and has tremendous ageing potential… read more
This white variety makes rich, creamy full-bodied dry wines and ripe, lush, semi-sweet wines, such as late harvest Tvishi… read more
The backbone of Georgian winemaking, Rkatsiteli makes light and crisp summery whites, as well as complex full-bodied qvevri wines. Also, Rkatsiteli is the grape behind the most popular Georgian wine in the UK… read more
A rare indigenous black variety mainly used to produce the iconic Khvanchkara – late harvest semi-sweet wine with elegant violet and ripe raspberry scents … read more
This rare and exciting white variety became almost extinct during the Soviet era. Today it makes outstanding amber wines (in qvevri), as well as fragrant whites… read more
Another part of the Khvanchkara blend, Mujuretuli is a rare, but a very promising grape variety. There are just under 60 hectares of Mujuretuli in Georgia… read more
It is a white variety from the Kakheti region. This aromatic white variety makes gorgeous flavour-packed wines, either solo or as part of the blend with Rkatsiteli… read more