They could out-eat us, out-drink us, out-dance us. They had the fierce gaiety of the Italians, and the physical energy of the Burgundians. Everything they did was done with flair…nothing can break the individuality of their spirit.
- John Steinbeck, on Georgia and Georgians, in ‘A Russian Journal’, 1948.
Georgian wine links
This small country, of high mountains and huge hearts, has an unbroken wine making heritage of 8,000 years.
‘Mother Georgia’ – the symbolic statue of the nation that overlooks the capital city – is pictured holding a wine cup for guests and a sword against invaders.
Georgia is a country of wine, of poetry, of fierce spirit, of plucky scrum halves, and of sublime food. Wine is in the blood. But Georgia’s strategic location – on the silk route, bounded by powerful and sometimes covetous neighbours – has interrupted her undoubted potential for making world-class wine.
With hundreds of native varieties – including the thrilling red wine grape Saperavi – and a flourishing wine culture, Georgian wine was famous even in the 18th century.
Soviet rule homogenised the exuberant, individualistic native wine culture. The wine focus moved – with a few honorable exceptions – to quantity and homogeneity.
Since 1991 – and Georgia’s full independence – the country’s wine scene has mirrored the progress and confidence of this creative, poetic, dynamic and exuberant nation.
Georgian wine exports to the UK increased by 200% in 2020. Many producers and wines are already imported into the UK. Many more are looking for new partners.
Regions and statistics
167 wines, 107 wineries
Georgia is dominated by mountains and wine. Vines are grown across the country.
The south-eastern region of Kakheti produces three-quarters of all Georgian wine. Kakheti’s climate is transitional continental with subtropical influences. Kakheti makes Georgia’s ripest wines. But craggy faults and valleys make for scores of sub-zones, some of them expressed through official PDOs.
Major grape varieties grown in Kakheti are the white Rkatsiteli and the red Saperavi.
Common wines styles include contemporary dry whites and reds, the iconic amber wines made in traditional clay qvevri, and off-dry reds. Large producers and former state-owned wineries are well established in Kakheti.
Moving westward, regions are Kartli, Meskheti, Imereti, Racha-Lechkumi, Samegrelo, Guria, Adjara and Abkhazia (occupied by Russia).
Kartli, like Kakheti, is influenced by weather systems from the east. In the west, the Black Sea and higher altitudes moderate the climate.
Every region has its own distinctive vine varieties, as well as cultural, gastronomic and wine making traditions.
Think of Georgian wines as similar to sherry - versatile, complex and food-friendly, they match well with salty cheese and dried hams.
From lighter to richer, starting in western Georgia with its cooler climate due to higher altitude
Solomone - Tsitska, Tsolikouri, Krakhuna 2020 Tsitska, Tsolikouri, Krakhuna 12.3% (Seeking importer)
qvevri-made wine, using indigenous Imeretian varieties; winery founded in 2010, 2019 was the first vintage released; Imeretian qvevri, called churi, are smaller leading to a lower fermenting temperature and only about 20% - 30% of grape skins are included with skins for a lighter wine
naturally clear, it is unfined and unfiltered
vibrant fruit; fresh and saline with lovely grapefruit acidity and green banana flavours; delicate, textured and intense
Churi Chinebuli - Churi Chinebuli 2018 Krakhuna 13% (£15 approx, Imported by Degustate.co.uk)
varietal Krakhuna from a young winery, founded by Dr Giga Gotsadze; churi-made wine with two months on the lees in stainless steel, indigenous Imeretian variety
floral and textured with yellow stone fruit, apricot-skin flavours and a rich savouriness; graceful
Koncho & Company - Mtsvivani Kakhuri 2017 Mtsvivani 14% (Seeking Importer)
from a large producer; non-qvevri wine, fermented in stainless steel and aged on lees on oak for 12m
bruised apple flesh, cidery with savoury creamy leesiness and exotic tropical fruit; warming and rich
Matrobela Wines - Kisi Qvevri 2019 Kisi 13% (£20, Imported by www.tasteofgeorgia.co.uk)
family winery, founded in 2015 by a professor of languages, using one of Georgia's most talent young winemaker; native Kisi grape variety native to Kakheti with 100% of skins in qvevri with 6m aging on skins
bright amber, fragrant with crunchy green apple and bruised fruit flavours; grippy, well-integrated white-tea tannins, fuller and more substantial
Satsnakheli/Tchotiashvili Vineyards - Khikhvi 2016 Khikhvi 13% (£20, Imported by www.degustate.co.uk)
vines planted in 2002 at 450m altitude, qvevri-fermented with 8m skin contact; unfined, unfiltered, low sulphite; quasi-natural wine with high attention to detail
golden amber; aromatic, complex and evolved with dried apricots and green herbs; fresh, textured and mineral with dried yellow stone fruits and a dense, muscular core
Bolero & Company - Sabado Mtsvane Qvevri 2018 Mtsvane 13% (Seeking importer)
larger producer dating back to 1929; fermented in qvevri and aged for 6m on skins, slightly lighter Kakhetian style with a touch of RS to offset the tannins
aromatic and floral; dried yellow stone fruits, orchard fruits, white pepper and wild herbs; complex with gentle, well-integrated tannins
Solomone -Dzelshavi 2020 Dzelshavi 11.5% (Seeking importer)
dzelshavi grape; ancient, rare and revived variety; thin skinned, fragrant and scented
floral with cherry fruit and grassy meadow flowers; fresh, juicy red and black berries with vibrant acidity and gentle, well-integrated tannins; light, fresh and fragrant
Papari Valley - 3 Qvevri Terraces Saperavi 2019 Saperavi 16% (£24.99, Imported by Georgian Wine Society)
organic, natural yeasts only, father-and-son winery, fermentation in qvevri terraces using gravity to rack from higher levels (fermentation) to lower levels (elevage and aging)
inky and viscous in the glass; lifted, floral dark pastille fruits; ripe cassis, baked blueberries and black fruits with tobacco leaf, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon spice; a sweet wine fermented to dryness, quirky and characterful
Gurian Wines of Amiran Dolidze - Ckhaveri, Qvevri 2018 Ckhaveri 13.3% (Seeking importer)
native (and resurgent) thick-skinned late-ripening Ckhaveri grape grown in western Georgia near the Black Sea; thrives in high humidity areas, producing aromatic candy-pink wines even when fermented on the skins; qvevri-fermented
bright, floral, aromatic; fresh and floral with delicate, pretty soft red-berry fruits with sumac spices
Tsulukidze Wine Yards – Aleksandrouli 2019 Aleksandrouli/ Mujuretuli 13.5% (Seeking importer)
young, small winery in the high north west, altitude 550m; qvevri-fermented, unfined, unfiltered; native Aleksandrouli grape, picked late with natural RS and high acidity
floral, perfumed parma violets and spice; fresh, juicy dark berries with wild green herbs; long and savoury with very fine tannins
Itsis Marani - Bimbili 2019 Mudjuretuli 14% (Seeking importer)
Mudjuretuli grape, grown at 400m - 500m, late harvested in October, fermented in stainless steel
aromatic red and black berry fruits; sweet, ripe, juicy jammy berry fruits with spice and florality; fresh, savoury and long with fine tannins
Odjaleshe - Odjaleche Salkhino 2018 Ojaleshi 13% (Seeking importer)
Ojaleshi grape from a young producer; qvevri wine
vibrant wild strawberry and bramble fruits and menthol; summer berry compote with spice and mint; intense with gentle tannins
Lipartiani Wine House - Chateau Lipartiani 2012 Saperavi 14.5% (Imported by Geo Naturals)
lifted cassis and baked blueberries with some volatile acidity; sweet, ripe dark berries and black fruits with minty eucalyptus; porty, concentrated and substantial in a Soviet old-school sort of way; long, complex and yet still primary for its age