Georgian Wines - Tradition and Identification
At every corner you can see the significance that Georgian wine has for the population of this small country in the Caucasus. Churches are adorned with reliefs of grapes, the patron saint Nino, who is revered by everyone, displays her vine cross and wine is the dominant drink at every festival. Wine belongs to the culture of Georgia. But even if the traditional production of Georgian wine with the help of kvevri, amphorae embedded in the soil for the fermentation of wine, is hardly used any more, there is still a lot of character in the bottles. Ancient vines on ancient vineyards, deeply rooted in mineral soils, hand-picked and matured in either amphora or Caucasian oak. After the capers of the past, Georgian wine is on the rise and promises true experiences with every drop.
Georgian wine of modern times
As a vineyard of the Soviet Union, Georgia experienced an unparalleled flowering, although the wines were of rather moderate quality. Georgia experienced its first turbulences for the wine industry with the anti-alcohol campaign launched by the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. By the time the country became independent in 1991 at the latest, exports had collapsed, followed by Russian sanctions in 2006. The downfall was followed by a rethink and reflection on the country's tradition and strengths. With the development of new European markets and foreign investments, wine-growing in Georgia is back in good shape, but has not yet reached the size of earlier days. In Soviet times, for example, the area under vines was about 128,000 hectares; today there are still about 60,000 hectares left, on which, however, high-quality wines from Georgia are produced.
Vines and areas of Georgia
Georgia has countless autochthonous grape varieties, about 38 of which are approved for viticulture. These include local treasures such as Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Tsolikouri and Siska - difficult to pronounce and easy to enjoy. But also varieties like Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot or Malbec grow and prosper on the alluvial soil or the calcareous soils of the four growing regions of Georgia.
The most important region for high-quality viticulture in Georgia is undoubtedly Kakheti, with the capital of the Telavi region as its centre. Two thirds of the grapes come here, mainly the native varieties Saperavi and Rkatsiteli are cultivated extensively. Both conventional and traditional viticulture is cultivated locally. Almost every farmer owns vines, city names are brand names for local wine, donkey carts transport wine from A to B - Kakheti lives wine.
The Cartlia region northwest of Tbilisi also plays an important role for Georgian wine. In the sunny climate and spared from precipitation, grape varieties for Georgian wines grow here in the European style. A large part of the grapes is also used for the production of sparkling wine or spirits.
A little more to the west lies Imeretien on the rivers Qwirila and Rioni. All kinds of autochthonous varieties are cultivated on the alluvial soils and partly developed in Kvevris, with fewer grape skins and no stems getting into the amphora as in Kakheti.
The two growing regions extend over large parts of the region and are scattered in the valleys and on southern slopes. The rare grape varieties Tsolikouri, Mudjuretuli and Aleksandrouli enjoy the warm and sunny climate and produce a lot of sugar. Thus in Racha-Letschumi there are many semi-dry and sweet wines from Georgia.
Traditional production of Georgian wine
The traditional production with amphorae, called Kvevri or Quevri in Georgian, has been known to Georgians for thousands of years. Embedded in the earth and sealed with stone slabs, clay and wood ash, these vessels are used only for the maturation of the stomped wine. Such Kvevris hold 10 to 2000 litres and enrich the wine with a loamy clay. The wine is unsulphurated and reminds of orange wine. But the wines from traditional production are slightly oxidative and tannic.
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