The country of Georgia has a lot to recommend itself to travelers, not the least of which is a gorgeous countryside and warm people, but one aspect of Georgia that makes it particularly stand out is its exquisite winemaking traditions. Bordered by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, Georgia claims to be one of the most ancient wine regions in the entire world. Naturally home to many wild grapes, Georgia was the first area to cultivate grapevines some 7000-8000 years ago. Wine from Georgia is some of the most unique and sought after in the world, making winery tours in Georgia a must on your bucket list if you are a wine lover.
WHAT IS THE TRADITIONAL PROCESS FOR MAKING WINE IN GEORGIA?
Georgia is home to a rare winemaking process that sets it apart from other countries. Wine in Georgia that is produced using this traditional method is stored in large earthen vessels called kvevris that are placed underground. These kvevris are the key to the traditional process of making wine in Georgia.
Imagine a standard vase that starts out narrow at the bottom, expands outward, then narrows again at the top. This is the shape of a kvevri. Made of clay, this vessel is coated in beeswax on the inside and placed in cellars underground with the opening almost at ground level. The crushed grapes, including skins and stems, are stored in the kvevris and it is here that the entire fermentation process takes place. Nothing else, no extra preservatives, are added to the grapes. Early on during the fermentation process, the pits gravitate towards the bottom of the kvevri, then a deposit forms over them, causing a natural separation between the wine and the pits. The skin of the grapes then form a layer over the deposits, allowing the wine to absorb all the nutrients possible. This process is extremely natural and produces wines of great complexity, making wine from Georgia more and more sought after throughout the world.
ENJOYING GEORGIA WINE
Out of the 400 types of grapes found in Georgia, Georgia currently utilizes about 40 of these for commercial production. Georgians regularly combine two or more grapes in their wines and offer a range of classifications: sparkling, fortified, sweet, semi-sweet, dry, and semi-dry.
Regarding wine, Georgia has several regions that are particularly well-known for producing exceptional vintages: Imereti, Kakheti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Kartli, and Abkhazia. There are thousands and thousands of smaller vineyards that are producing wine using traditional methods, but there are larger wineries that you can visit as well, although they are not guaranteed to use the ancient Georgia winemaking process, but instead more modern ones.
Winery tours in Georgia are a great way to combine experiencing Georgian culture with getting a tour of the countryside as well. Wine is such an integral part of Georgia’s history and culture that to go to Georgia and not make a point of visiting a vineyard or winery would be a travesty. So talk to your travel agent about setting up a tour of Georgia that allows you to get a true taste of Georgian culture.
Photos from source: magmens.com, experience.tripster.ru, xn--80ab1afm5f.su, svoboda.org