Georgia is home to one of the oldest surviving wine industries in history. It claims to be the birthplace to viticulture and winemaking – though many scholars argue the birthplace was in ancient Greece.
There are over 500 grape varietals that are indigenous to Georgia with 38 of them officially allowed in commercial winemaking. The most important aspect of Georgia’s winemaking traditions is the use of the fermentation and maturation vessel of qvevri – giant clay amphorae. These are, or at least very similar, to the same clay vessels that the ancient Romans and Greeks would have used also. The wines grapes are pressed and loaded into the qvevri with their skins and stalks, the qvervi are then buried to leave the wines to ferment on their own devices.
Main Grapes or styles
Rkatsiteli – regarded as the oldest grape varietal known to man. It is a white grape variety that is capable of making zingy, citrusy whites as well as complex orange wines. (See the entry on Orange wines here).
Saperavi – the leading red wine varietal of Georgia. Saperavi gives wines that are bold with smooth tannins and flavours of red currant jam and blackberries. The best wines can age for quite some time developing nutty aromas as they mature.
Kakheti – is the largest region in Georgia devoted to wine production. It is found in the far east of Georgia on the border with Azerbaijan. It is also home to some of the oldest wineries in existence such as the Alaverdi Monastery which was set up in the 6th century.
Climate and its effect on the wines made here
Georgia has a climate that is overall very warm which best lends itself to full-bodied red wine production. This is also the reason many of the white wines are produced in the full-bodied orange wine style versus the crisp and light style many modern white wines are made in – generally due to the lack of acidity found in the white grapes.