Viticulture in Georgia is one of the oldest in the world, a majority of linguists believe that the etymology of the world «wine» comes from the Georgian word defining wine : gvino. Recently archaeologists discovered wine residue in pottery hars dating back more than 8,000 years.
Georgian vines currently covers 40, 000 hectares and the country has authenticated 540 different grape varieties.
Ancestral winemaking method: kvevri or Qvevri
The country is also known for an ancestral winemaking method unique to Georgia, the Qvevri method. It consists of allowing the grapes to ferment in whole bunches (with stems) for five to six months (https://ich.unesco.org/fr/RL/la-methode-georgienne-de-vinification-a-lancienne-dans-des-kvevris-traditionnels-00870) in large ovoid clay jars, buried underground. Wine making in Georgia is widespread in every family: each has its vineyard, its cellar, its specialty. But they all share the same artisanal manufacturing method, which has been inscribed since 2013 by UNESCO on the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
It is in the Qvevri region that they let the grape juice ferment and age with its skin and residue after harvest. This art, passed down from generation to generation, is still practiced today in many villages across the country, where everyone takes part in the harvest. It is precisely this lack of filtering and this contact with clay that gives Georgian wine its inimitable taste and world renown.
Once the alcoholic fermentation completed, the Qvevris are filled and sealed. The fermentation and ageing processes are classic but with a late devatting that takes place in February/March. The wines obtained are thus quite tannic but balanced on the palate with often very interesting notes of oregano. The lees desposited at the bottom of the Qvevris give the wine a reductive side.
Development of barrel aging
Although only about 3% of Georgian wines are made in the Qvevris, this vinification method remains a romantic ideal that celebrates the country’s history.
Nowadays, winemakers are increasingly interested in aging their wines in barrels and wish to resort to longer agings. The current average aging time for Georgian wines in barrels is 6 to 10 months.
There are many varieties and types of wine, the main one being Mukuzani, PDO red wine, very often associated with aging in new French Oak barrels.
On the advice of David Machavariani, Georgian agent for Tonnellerie Saury, the Teliani Valley vineyards placed their trust in Tonnellerie Saury and chose the “L’Ecrin” barrel for aging their wines over more than 18 months.
The selection of woods combined with carefully sorted grains, allows the wine to flourish in the “L’Ecrin” barrel during a long aging period, this giving the desired balance, while respecting the fruit and the brilliance of the aromas.
Georgian vineyards overview
Georgia is rebuilding the quality if its vineyard by reducing the areas planted. It currently has 18 PDOs which are split as followed: 10 for white wines and 8 for red wines.
The 4 most important production regions in Georgia are: Kakheti, Kartili, Iméréti and the Racha region.
Grape varieties to know
Kakheti represents more than 70% of the country’s production the grape varieties the Saperavi, dominant red grape, Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli, dominant white grapes which gives quite balanced wines.
Other grape varieties exist in Georgia, such as Imereti, Tsitska, Tsolikauri, Krakhuna, Aleksanrouli and Mudzuretuli.
Famous Georgian wines
The Tsinandali a dry white wine produced in the Kakheti region from two grape varieties : Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane. It has a light straw color and a fruity floral scent. It benefits from an aging period of 3 years, half of which in oak barrels.
The Kindzmarauli, a semi-sweet red wine made from Saperavi grape, which grows in the Kvareli district of Kakheti. This wine has the color of ripe cherries and a slightly tart taste.
The Akhasheni, red wine naturally semi-sweet made from the Saperavi grape, with a dark ruby color, harmonious taste of chocolate and a silky texture.
The Khvanchkara, a natural semi-sweet red wine made from Aleksanrouli and Mudzuretuli grapes grown in the Hvanchkara vineyards in the Racha region of western Georgia. This wine has a strong characteristic bouquet and a well-balanced tannic profile with raspberry aromas. With its Dark ruby color, Khvanchkara is one of Georgia’s most popular semi-sweet wines.
The country’s total production in 2020 was 283, 000 tonnes of grapes intended for winemaking into wine or brandy.
Most of it is for exportations (93 millions bottles).
Another part is sold locally (Georgians consumes 15 to 20 liters of bulk wine per person/year).
Georgian wine exports have continued to increase, especially since 2013 with the re-opening of the Russian market (11 million bottles sold). China and Poland remain promising markets, as may soon be the United States and the United Kingdom, which Georgia wants to win over.
Focus on the agent of Tonnellerie Saury in Georgia : DAVID MACHAVARIANI
Holder of the diploma of National Oenologist of Bordeaux, David Machavariani returns to Georgia in 2006 to work as consultant oenologist. Over the past 15 years, David has vinified several hundred thousand hectoliters of wine and advised numerous wineries. Over the years, he has forged excellent relationships with most of the country’s winemakers and advises young oenologists, the current driving force of Georgian oenology. David represents Tonnellerie Saury for the sale of barrels but he also sell corks and other oenological products.
Since 2015, he vinifies his own wine and produced, in 2020, 1000 Hl of high-ed wine (50% vinified in Qvevris) and has just embarked on the construction of his own cellar which will eventually be able to produce 500 000 bottles.