Dear friend of
If you are holding this guide book
in your hands, it means that you
are standing on the threshold of a
miraculous ancient world of Georgian
Dear friend of
If you are holding this guide book
in your hands, it means that you
are standing on the threshold of a
miraculous ancient world of Georgian
We Georgians, are fond of guests. An urge
to talk to strangers and make them familiar
to our country is in our blood – as is wine.
This book is going to be an amazing travel
buddy for you: it will make you understand
our historical background and help you
pick your next wine destination. Georgian
National Tourism Administration has been
working on the project Wine Route for
several years in order to help winemakers
and travelers meet each other and enjoy
each other’s company.
Follow the brown signage on the roads
and take this book with you – it is very easy
to use! We wish you a pleasant journey.
Total area: 69 700 km2
Official language: Georgian
Official currency: Georgian lari (GEL)
Population: 3 720 400
Time Zone: UTC +4
Calling code: +995
Lesser Caucasus divides Georgia into several climatically diverse areas: while the Western part is more humid, warm and green – purely subtropical! – the Eastern one is more dry, continental, with hot summer and moderate winter.
Greater Caucasus is protecting our country from the cold streams from the North, and the glaciers of the 4 – 5,000 m p
We call our country Sakartvelo (saqarTvelo), but internationally it is known as Georgia. It is located at the coast of Black Sea, embraced by Caucasus Mountains from the North, where it borders on Russia. It has also a border with Turkey and Armenia from South and Azerbaijan from East.
Being a part of the small Kartvelian group of languages, the Georgian doesn’t resemble to any wide spoken language and therefore is one of the most challenging languages to learn. It is written with an original and distinctive alphabet that has Aramaic and Greek roots. The oldest literary text that is known to us dates from the 5th century AD.
History of The modern version of our alphabet has 33 letters. Those who see the Georgian writing for the first time, often say that it consists of hearts.
This egg — shaped vessel is built from raw wet clay according to a good old coil — building technique. It usually takes several week
to create a 1000 – 2000 liters big one. After the building up is done, the Qvevri is put into an ample bricked up oven where it is roasted under the temperature of 1000 C for at least a week.
Though, in the mid — 2010s, a school of Qvevri — making has been created in Kakheti for the purpose of reviving this much needed ancient handcraft.
We don’t know for sure if wine was a sacral drink during the pagan times, but the arrival of Christianity to Georgia and its establishing as an official religion in 326 AD has influenced the role of wine in the society. It became a holy drink, a symbol of Christ’s blood.
Nino from Cappadocia, the woman who convinced the royal family of ancient Georgian kingdom to accept Christianity, arrived to Georgia with the cross made of vine branches and tied with her own hair. The crooked shape of traditional Georgian cross is a reminder.
Also, you will see the symbols of grapes in every church and monastery across the country! Here and there, at medieval frescoes and the forged gates, the grapes and vines are twisting up, being a tender bound for our old nation.
As the network of churches and convents spread up across the country, monasteries became important centers of winemaking.
One of the most prominent places is Alaverdi that claims to start producing wine since 1011.
The period between X and XIII centuries AD is considered to be the Golden Age not only for Georgia, but also for its wine producing culture. Later on, the country fell under the Mongolian armies of thousands, and then was going through the period of fragmentation and weakening, as the Persian and Ottoman rules didn’t let it recover. Obviously, the winemaking had to go underground, as those rulers had other religious views and opinion about role of wine in the society
Luckily, the Georgian stub- bornness and deep connec- tion to the old faith and old habits helped the winemak- ing and vine sorts sustain. In 1783 Georgia signed the Treaty of Georgievsk with the Russian Empire that
helped it restore Christianity for the price of independ- ence. And in 1830, the first European — like wine cellars were established in Eastern Georgia due to the efforts of Prince Alexander Chavcha- vadze.
In 1870s, the first sparkling wine of Georgia was produced in the estate of Ivane Mukhran — Batoni in Kartli region. Soon his wines started going on export
to France and Poland and even won the international awards.
In the beginning of the XX century, up to the end of Georgia’s short independ- ency in 1918 – 1921 years, the private wine businesses have been developing rapidly. In 1929, the Soviet wine monopoly, Samtrest, was established.
The Soviet Georgian winemaking was oriented on the big production volumes and poor variety. Due to that, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi grapes, that are the most easy to grow, started spreading industrially and replace more demanding sorts. This standartisation of wine production almost led to the extinction of dozens of endemic wine sorts.
Elderly people often say that it was impolite to offer a factory wine to the guest due to its poor quality.
That’s why many people tried to make bootleg wine at their homes.
In 1985, the Soviet govern- ment proclaimed so called “dry law” that prohibited the alcohol consumption in certain hours, implemented prosecution for being drunk and raised the prices for alcohol drinks.
The turbulent 1990s with fall of USSR, war in Abkhazia and extreme poverty of transition period have been followed by establishment of first commercial wine cellars. The Russian Embargo of 2006 was a
big shock and a major Zero Hour for the Georgian winemaking industry, as it made the producers find the new markets, new distribution channels and revive the old tradition, bringing it from home cellars to the wider public.
In 2013, Qvevri method of winemaking is listed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Hu- manity. In 2014 – 2016 the international wine tourism events are being held in Georgia – the 1st UNWTO Global Conference of Wine Tourism among them.
Nowadays, around 50 000 hectares of Georgiansoil arecovered by vineyardsthat bring us 200 — 250,000 tonsof grapes. About 200 companies export their wines in the volume of 70+ millions bottles to the 50+ countries worldwide. In 2017, wine export amounted to $170 million US, showing a 49% increase compared to previous years. worldwide. in 2017, wine export Amounted to $170 million us, showing A 49% increase Compared to previous years.
In Georgian, “rtveli” means “harvest”. Tra- ditional harvest festivities in family circle belong to those distinctive Georgian tra- ditions that still live. Despite the fact that nowadays young people prefer to live and work in the cities, in the fall many of them come to their ancestors’ land and grand- parents’ homes to meet the whole family and take part in a ritual, which is almost as old as Georgia itself.
You may wonder, what is special about harvest, while it’s a normal part of agricul- tural routine. However, considering how deep the roots of viticulture in Georgia are
vineyard to get a good harvest. So rtveli is crowning the natural cycle and starts a new one.
Every guest to Georgia can take part in rtveli — any vineyard owner is pleased by offered help and interest in the process of birth of wine. If you want to be involved into the ancient tradition, you should learn some special words for traditional tools re- lated to winemaking.
If some societies are ruled by the presi- dents and kings, Georgia lives under in- visible rules of supra, the traditional feast. Well, feast is a very narrow word for that
– the reason to organize a supra can be not only Christmas, Independence Day or someone’s birthday, but also the unex- pected arrival of a cousin of your aunt’s schoolmate from the neighbouring town.
In short, Georgians love to gather around the table and consume a lot of delicious food and drink. Important issues are being discussed during supra in a very light manner – this is the deepest cultural, or even gastronomic diplomacy.
If you are invited to the real supra, espe- cially in the countryside, you will notice that its timeline is quite strict and there is a specific sequence of toasts. There are two main people within this system: a tamada, the toast master, the king, and merikipe, the grey cardinal, the one who pours the drinks without getting drunk.
Tamada is the one who leads the feast, proclaiming the toasts, giving the others right to say theirs (jumping out to say something is considered to be impolite) and keeping up the good atmosphere. He usually raises the first glass to God (though, in Western Georgia it is combined with a toast to peace – obviously, given us by God).
Then people drink to the occasion or person that brought them together. After this it’s usually well — being of the guests’ families and friends, the home countries of the guests, to the parents, to the ancestors, to the children, to women, to love, to mothers, to friendship, etc. While the topics are the same, the stories told by tamada can be very broad, starting from a far and coming closer to the main issue after a couple of minutes.
The last toast is usually raised to tamada him/herself, which is quite sad: it means that the party is over till the next time.
Divided into sub — appellations, it is home to 14 of the 19 Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs), such as Tsinandali, Gurjaani, Vazisubani, Manavi, Kardenakhi, Tibaani, Kakheti, Kotekhi, Napareuli, Mukuzani, Teliani, Kindzmarauli, Akhasheni, Kvareli, Khashmi. Among Georgian wines Kakhe- tian wine expresses soil properties most of all. Kakheti is famous for numerous medi- eval monasteries and fortresses, as well as cave lavra David Gareji.
TSINANDALI – is the oldest Georgian PDO located on the right bank of the Alazani River. Vineyards are mainly located within 300 — 750m above the sea level. The climate is moderately humid, with hot summer and moderaly cold winter.
NAPAREULI – is a home of dry white and dry red wines. The microzone is located in the upper part of the Alazani River, on the left bank.
TIBAANI – was established in 1948. It sits on the right bank of the Alazani River and pushing a little up in to the hills of the Gombori Ridge.
TELIANI – located a bit to the east of Kakheti’s central town, Telavi, this is the only region that grows the foreign vari- ety — Cabernet Sauvignon. The resulting wine has classical flavor of dark fruit and bellpepper.
KARDENAKHI – was established in 1926, this is Georgia’s sole fortified wine appella- tion with the addition of alcohol bringing the wines up to 18% ABV.
KINDZMARAULI – is a naturally semi — sweet red wine made of Saperavi grape, characterized by a dark garnet red color, harmonious taste with full, velvety, deli- cate, pleasant sweetness, fruit tones and varietal aroma.
AKHASHENI – appellation has been es- tablished in 1958. The wines from there are often natural semi — sweet.
VAZISUBANI – established in 1978 on the Tsiv — Gombori ridge, it has a wide range of soil types. The wines from Vazisubani are very floral and medium — bodied.
MANAVI – the appellation is located to the east of Sagarejo. The appellation exists since 1938.
GURJAANI – this appellation stretches along the slopes of the right bank of the Alazani River. The wines are known for be- ing straw coloured and full — bodied.
MUKUZANI – is a dry red wine charac- terized by a dark pomegranate color, full bodied taste, harmonious and velvety. It is made of Saperavi grape variety in the oak barrels.
KVARELI – wines from here are character- ized by dark red color, varietal aromas, bal- ance and a distinctive bouquet. The micro zone is located in Kakheti, Kvareli region, on the left bank of the Alazani
In the surroundings of Georgian capital, there are wine cellars that produce excel- lent wines. Enjoy them on site in one of the multiple wine bars of Tbilisi!
Kartli Region starts from the outskirts of Tbilisi and spreads up to Imereti. Worth vis- iting because of its historical monuments, especially fantastic cave town Uplistsikhe.
Atenuri is also considered to be a natural sparkling wine. For Atenuri, two sorts of grapes are used: Chinuri and Goruli Mts- vane that are harvested quite late. They are stored in a specially prepared ceramic wine jar. The special storage place in At- eni Gorge was chosen for its temperature and climate conditions. This kind of wine should ferment very gently. As a result, it is transparent and airy.
Mostly famous for mountains, historical and archaeological sites – Mtskheta and Jvari Monastery, Armazi Fortress, Gudauri Ski Resort, Gergeti Trinity Church — this region is also a home to several wineries.
The Meskheti region lies in southern Georgia and is a part of administrative unit Samtskhe — Javakheti. Vineyards in Meskheti were traditionally grown in the valleys of the Mtkvari River and its tributaries, as well as upon slopes and terraces. Very small amounts of Meskhetian wine are produced in total, because vines only cover a small area.
This region in Western Georgia is situated along the middle and upper reaches of the
Rioni river. It extends from the humid sub- tropical zone, ending at 2850 m at alpine meadows. Worth visiting because of its UN- ESCO monuments, protected area with the caves and canyons, and spa with various healing springs.
Combines the most prominent sorts of Im- eretian grapes — Tsitska, Tsolikouri and Kra- khuna. The appellation exists since 1962.
Racha -Lechkhumi & KVEMO SVANETI
This region is located high in the moun-tains, on the north — west of Georgia. Com- pared to Kakheti, vineyards are grown here on quite a small territory (approximately 1600 ha). The wines from Racha — Lechkhu- mi taste very deep. The vineyards here are grown mostly on the slopes of Rioni gorge.
It is a blend of Aleksandrouli and Mujure- tuli grapes. The naturally semisweet wine has been produced under this name since 1932, and according to the popular opin- ion, it was one of the favourite wines of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It might be a tricky tool to popularize this wine, even though it is quite rare according to the amount of production.
The first references about wine production in this area refer to the times of Colchis Kingdom (approximately 2000 years ago). This region is famous for its walnuts, tasty pies and humorous people.
The administrative center of the region, Batumi, is the second biggest city in Georgia. Famous for its jazz festival and summer beach bars, this coastal city is the beating heart of the country in summer and botanical garden, Ethnographic Museum, two protected areas – Kintrishi and Mtirala, as well as ski resort Goderdzi. Around 60% of Ajara is covered by forests. The region is also well known for its humid climate.
In recent years the active restoration of old grape varieties has begun in the region. a pleasant destination for those who enjoy walking, cycling and eating out during the off — season. Also it is a home of a beautiful
Samegrelo — zemo svaneti
The climate in Samegrelo is generally hu- mid, subtropical, wine growing areas are located at the foothill of Greater Caucasus. Samegrelo is worth visiting because of its beautiful nature (Martvili Canyon is a must see!) and delicious food.
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