Wine has long been a part of Georgian history, with evidence of winemaking in the country as far back as 6000 BC, making it one of the oldest wine regions in the world. With around 500 native grape varietals grown in Georgia, wine is produced across the whole country.
Georgian White Wine
Grapes grown in Georgia can typically be found at the foothills of the impressive Caucasus Mountains. The higher altitude, yet shaded and cooler location, makes for grapes which boast higher levels of acidity and floral aromas, with lower alcohol levels. These conditions make for very aromatic wines.
While there are many grape varieties, Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane and Tsolikouri are some of the most popular white wine varietals. Rkatsiteli is the primary grape used for producing crisp white wine in Georgia and creates wines similar to Pinot Grigio. It has fairly subtle characteristics, meaning that it is often blended together with other grapes.
There are six types of Mtsvane grapes grown in Georgia, and each are named after the main area in which they are grown. One of the best-known is the Mtsvane Kakhuri, which presents floral, fresh and fruity notes. With Mtsvane meaning ‘green’ in Georgian, many wines made using these grapes will feature a green tinge. In western Georgia, the Tsolikouri grape can be found growing, and it produces crisp and fresh tasting wines with fruity notes, such as apples and pears.
Georgian Red Wine
Away from the mountainous areas, at lower altitudes and warmer temperatures, the climate is better suited to the growing of grapes for red wine. The most popular native grape used in Georgian wine is the Saperavi, which can be used to make a diverse range of wine types. Meaning ‘place of colour’, wines produced using the Saperavi grape often present an incredible colour. From fruity, semi-sweet wines to oak-aged, complex, dry wines, the Saperavi grape is filled with potential and is used for a wide range of different wines. At its best, Saperavi offers a rich texture with notes of dark fruit.
Georgian Amber Wines
Amber wines are a Georgian speciality and are best described as having a flavour like white wine, but the body, structure and tannins of a red. Thought to have originated in Georgia, amber wine is a skin-contact wine, made using white grapes rather than red grapes. While you would typically remove the skin of a white wine grape before producing white wine, these skins are not removed for amber wine, and are instead left to soak in with the grape juice for at least a few days, if not a few months! These skins add the golden tint to the wine, as well as the additional tannins, which give the wine the same texture as a red wine.
Image Credit: А.Мухранов
Wine Producing Techniques
While modern winemaking techniques can be employed in Georgia, Georgian wine is famous for its traditional techniques, which sees the wine made in qvevri, which are egg-shaped clay jars. These clay containers are buried under the earth, allowing the natural aeration and temperature changes below the ground aiding the maturation process for the wine. Qvevri are essential for the production of amber wines.
Hopefully, after a few glasses of Georgian wine, you will finally be able to pronounce the names of some of their grapes and wines! If you are looking to expand your wine collection to include wines from all around the world, then why not invest in a wine storage cabinet to ensure that each bottle is safely stored?!