Georgian Wines: Everything You Need to Know

Georgian Wine History

Georgian wine is a journey through history, culture, and tradition. With a wine-making heritage that spans over 8,000 years, Georgia stands as one of the oldest wine-producing regions globally. This rich legacy is a source of national pride and a testament to the resilience and passion of the Georgian people.

The story begins in the Neolithic period, around 6000 BCE, where archaeological finds such as ancient qvevri (large clay vessels) suggest that Georgians were among the first to cultivate grapevines and produce wine. The unique qvevri method, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, involves fermenting grape juice, skins, and stems in these large earthenware vessels buried underground. This ancient technique has been passed down through generations and remains a cornerstone of Georgian wine-making today.

The Qvevri Process: How Georgian Wine is Made

The qvevri process is what sets Georgian wine apart from other wines around the world. Here’s how it works:

  1. Harvesting: The process starts with handpicking grapes to ensure that only the highest quality fruit is used. Common grape varieties include Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, and Mtsvane.
  2. Crushing and Fermentation: Once harvested, the grapes are crushed, and the juice, along with the skins, stems, and seeds, is poured into qvevris. These large clay vessels are then sealed and buried underground. The fermentation process takes place naturally, without the addition of any artificial yeast or additives. This can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. The contact with the grape skins and stems gives the wine its distinct flavour, texture, and complexity.
  3. Resting Period: After fermentation, the wine remains in the qvevri for an extended period. This aging process, which can last from six months to several years, allows the wine to develop its unique characteristics. During this time, the wine interacts with the natural earth elements, enhancing its flavor profile and creating a deep, earthy taste that is signature to Georgian wines.
  4. Bottling: Finally, the wine is carefully extracted from the qvevri, filtered, and bottled. The result is a natural, robust wine that reflects the rich terroir of Georgia.

Red Grapes

  • Saperavi: Georgia’s signature grape, celebrated for its deep color and robust structure, producing versatile wines ranging from dry to sweet.
  • Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli: Found in renowned wines like Khvanchkara, these grapes create semi-sweet red wines with a distinctive flavor profile.

White Grapes

  • Rkatsiteli: A versatile grape used in both dry and sweet wines, prized for its balanced acidity and citrus notes.
  • Mtsvane: Known for its aromatic qualities, Mtsvane adds complexity to Georgian white wine blends.
  • Goruli Mtsvane: A lesser-known variety, noted for its floral aromas and refreshing acidity.

Types of Georgian Wines

Georgian wines are incredibly diverse, offering something for every palate. Here are some of the most popular types:

Red Wines

  • Saperavi: The most famous Georgian red wine, Saperavi is known for its deep color, full body, and robust flavor. It can be found as a dry red wine or a sweet red, appealing to different preferences.
  • Kindzmarauli: A naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Saperavi grapes in the Kakheti region, specifically the Alazani Valley. It’s celebrated for its rich, fruity flavor.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: While not traditionally Georgian, Cabernet Sauvignon is increasingly being cultivated in the region, offering a new dimension to Georgian red wines with its bold, tannic structure.
  • Pinot Noir: While not native to Georgia, Pinot Noir is increasingly cultivated in the region, producing elegant, medium-bodied red wines.

White Wines

  • Rkatsiteli: One of the oldest and most versatile grape varieties in Georgia, Rkatsiteli produces a dry, crisp white wine with balanced acidity and notes of green apple and citrus.
  • Mtsvane: Often blended with Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane grapes yield a fresh, aromatic white wine with floral and fruity notes.

Amber Wines

  • Qvevri Wines: These wines, made using the traditional qvevri method, often appear amber due to extended skin contact during fermentation. They offer complex flavors with hints of nuts, dried fruit, and spices.

Sparkling Wines

Georgian sparkling wines are gaining popularity and are typically made using the traditional method, resulting in high-quality, effervescent wines that are perfect for celebrations.

Understanding Georgian Wine Types

Georgian wines come in various styles, categorized by their sweetness levels:

  • Dry Wines: Dry wines have little to no residual sugar, offering a crisp and refreshing taste. They are popular among those who prefer wines with a clean finish.
  • Semi-Sweet Wines: Semi-sweet wines have a moderate amount of residual sugar, balancing sweetness with acidity. They often taste fruity and are versatile for pairing with a wide range of dishes.
  • Sweet Wines: Sweet wines have higher residual sugar content, resulting in a richer, sweeter taste profile. These wines are typically enjoyed as dessert wines or paired with cheeses and desserts.

Wine Regions in Georgia

Georgia is home to several wine regions, each with its unique climate and soil conditions that contribute to the diversity of Georgian wines:

  • Kakheti: The most renowned wine region, producing 70% of Georgian wine. It’s famous for its Saperavi and Rkatsiteli wines.
  • Kartli: Known for its sparkling wines and lighter, fruitier red wines.
  • Imereti: Produces wines with a distinct, slightly tangy flavor due to the use of the local Tsitska and Tsolikouri grape varieties.
  • Racha-Lechkhumi: Famous for its semi-sweet red wines, particularly Khvanchkara, made from Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli grapes.

Tasting Georgian Wines in Tbilisi and Beyond

For those looking to explore Georgian wines, Tbilisi offers numerous venues where you can taste and enjoy these unique wines:

  • Wine Bars: Tbilisi is home to many wine bars that offer extensive selections of Georgian wines. Places like “8000 Vintages” and “g.Vino” provide cozy atmospheres where you can sample a variety of local wines.
  • Wineries: Visiting wineries such as Chateau Mukhrani and Tsinandali Estate allows you to see the wine-making process firsthand and taste wines right where they are made.
  • Wine Tours: For an immersive experience, consider booking a wine tour in Georgia. Explore picturesque vineyards, visit historic wineries, and sample a variety of Georgian wines guided by knowledgeable experts. Book your Georgian wine tour.

Georgian Wines Around the World

Georgian wines are gaining international recognition and are now available in many countries, including the United States and South Africa. Importers and distributors are increasingly bringing these unique wines to a global audience. You can find Georgian wines in specialty wine shops, online retailers, and even on the main menu of some high-end restaurants.


Georgian wines offer a unique and rich wine-drinking experience, deeply rooted in history and tradition. From the ancient qvevri method to the diverse range of grape varieties and wine styles, there is something for every wine enthusiast to enjoy!

Interested in learning more about Georgia? Check out these related articles I’ve written:

10 Things To Visit in Tbilisi, Georgia

A Guide to Tbilisi’s Stonehenge: The Chronicle of Georgia

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