Georgia’s easternmost region of Kakheti is a land of hospitable, open hearted and straightforward people who live surrounded by rugged mountains, ancient castles, magnificent churches, and drink wine to praise the almighty for each harvest of their nurtured grape yards. Kakheti is unquestionably a must-see for any conference delegate attending the 6th International Wine Tourism Conference in Georgia. With its generous landscapes and people, Kakheti offers an unforgettable experience to its first-time visitors and those who are well acquainted with its heart-warming culture.
Known almost exclusively for its vineyards and wineries, this wide and fertile valley presses up against the white-topped Dagestan Caucasus to the north and the Azerbaijan wetlands to the south. Hot enough in summer to ripen any grape to perfection, the morning fog and the abundant rivers flowing down from the high Caucasus help fill them with bold flavor.
History of Kakheti winegrowing takes a start from VI millennium BC. Grape leftovers, discovered by the archeologists, date back to the mentioned period and they are the oldest around the globe, which proves once again that Georgia is a homeland of wine. 500 out of world-known 2.000 grape species are Georgian. Everyone can enjoy the world’s oldest wine culture and discover the unique Qvevri tradition of clay pots used to create delicious, unﬁltered, organic wines.
Touring this region for wine tasting is becoming ever more popular, and there are many different wineries you can visit and taste variety of wines.
Main Grape varieties
Rkatsiteli grows in all Kakhetian areas and can be consumed as fruit. It stands out for abundant yields. In Kakhetian conditions it fully ripens around mid-September.
Kakhuri Mtsvane – (Kakhetian Green) aboriginal vine breed of white wine grapes that can be mainly found in Sagarejo District, particularly around Manavi Village whose soil makes it reveal its best features. Mtsvane is known for its good crop yield.
Qisi – Georgian aboriginal vine breed of white wine grapes. Qisi is intermediate breed between Rkatsiteli and Kakhuri Mtsvane. Its grapes make both table and sparkling wines.
Khikhvi – Georgian ancient aboriginal vine breed of white wine grapes that can be mainly found in Gurjaani District, particularly around Kardenakhi Village. It can be used to produce high-quality fortified liqueur wines. This breed does not yield much crops.
Cabernet-Sauvignon – French vine breed of red grapes. It is especially prevalent in Bordeaux. In Georgia it can be found in Telavi and Kvareli Districts and used to make high-quality table wines.
AOC Tsinandali – AOC Tsinandali is located in the Telavi district, on the right bank of the river Alazani at an altitude of 300 -750 meters above the sea level. The region includes villages Tsinandali, Kisiskhevi, Kondoli, Vardisubani, Akura and other nearby villages. The most famous Georgian white wine “Tsinandali” is made from the Rkatsiteli grapes
AOC Mukuzani – Mukuzani is situated in the centre of Kakheti, in Gurjaani district on the right bank of Alazani river at the altitude of 350-750 m above the sea level. Micro-zone includes the whole area of Mukuzani; villages Velistsikhe, Vazisubani, Chumlaki and other nearby sites. The grapes mature end of September. The main grape variety growing in Mukuzani AOC is Saperavi, which makes one of the best Georgian red wines Mukuzani.
AOC Akhasheni – Akhasheni is located in the centre of Kakheti, on the right board of Alazani river on the 350-700m above the sea level. Mainly Akhasheni and Chumlaki villages make up AOC Akhasheni. Saperavi is the most cultivated grape variety there. In Soviet times the famous Akhasheni wine used to be semy-sweet. Nowadays excellent dry red wines are made from this AOC. AOC Napareuli is situated in the Northern part of Kakheti, in the upper part of Alazani river at the 400-500 m above the sea level. The AOC includes Napareuli, Saniore, Jugaani, Artana, Pshaveli and other nearby villages. In the AOC Napareuli are produced as red as well white wines. The red wine is 100% made from Saperavi grape.
AOC Kindzmarauli – AOC Kindzmarauli is located in the eastern part of Kakheti, in Kvareli district. The vineyards are placed on the 250-550 m above the sea level mostly along the left board of Alazani river. AOC Kindzmarauli is characterized with very unique climate and structure. Kindzmarauli soil contains number of precious metals such as gold, diamond, silver etc. The unique natural conditions of these vineyards have an impact on the superior quality of wine. If in the past Kindzmarauli was famous only as a red semi-sweet wine, today excellent dry wines are made from the Saperavi grapes.
Kakh Technology of wine making
Wine is made in every family in Kakheti. And this is the rule most of the Kakhetian peasants follow. Traditionally, picked grapes are placed in a special building – the wine-cellar. They use the winepress for pressing grapes. The juice is then poured into clay jars called Kvevri that are kept in the ground – where it stays to matured and turn into wine. People use special sacks made of leather – Tiki and Rumba, to transport and keep the wine. Wineglasses are mainly made of clay. Traditionally, there are special horns of a goat or the aurochs also used for drinking wine when making special toasts.
Kvevri is used for keeping wine. It is made of clay that passes through a special treatment. In order to maintain temperature of wine, the jar is put in the ground; it is then hermetically closed with the grape juice inside, until the juice finally turns into wine. The pitchers were also opened for mixing the juice and removing Chacha. Nowadays, wine is rarely made in Kvevris but mostly in wooden barrels. During some archeological excavations, the Kvevri culture was unearthed in ancient layers. There was also a tradition of Kvevris to churches.
Grape-picking in Georgia is called Rtveli – a Vintage. Rtveli starts at the end of September and continues for about two weeks. In Kakheti, the vintage is a labor feast. Grape-picking starts in early morning and lasts till the late evening. The event is accompanied by special folk songs dedicated to the process. Picked grapes are kept in baskets called – Godori. The vintage is studded as a rule, with neighbors and relatives, and guests participating in the activity. At the end of the working day, people gather at the table to celebrate together.
Delegates able to stay on after the International Wine Tourism Conference will be able to visit the region on one of the many post conference wine tours.