Insider’s Guide to Georgia’s Wine Country
The little South Caucasus country of Georgia is a gorgeous place, boasting fabulous food, music and mountains. Its warm Mediterranean climate, deep black soil, saw-toothed mountains and Black Sea coast combine to make Georgia a Garden of Eden, overflowing with wine and rich in culinary flair – everything you could wish for in a destination.
Georgia’s Kakheti region is famous for its wine, and the towns and wineries here are definitely worth a visit… and a wine-tasting.
- All About Kakheti – Georgia’s Wine Country
- Telavi – Capital of Kakheti and Napa’s Sister City
- Signagi – A Small Town with an Important Winery
All About Kakheti – Georgia’s Wine Country
Kakheti is Georgia’s wine country. And Georgia takes its wine seriously. Long ago, Georgians were sun worshippers and believed that the sun’s chosen plant was the grape vine. There’s archaeological evidence that people were making wine in this region 8,000 years ago: wine residue was scraped from an ancient earthenware vessel called a qvevri, used to ferment, age and store wine.
Even today, traditional Georgian winemakers still use this method. In 2013 UNESCO elected Georgia’s qvevri method of winemaking to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Imagine a drive through Napa Valley. Take away the traffic and the signs advertising roadside wineries, but keep the rows upon rows of grapevines marching up the slopes. Now add a herd of sheep crowding the road, accompanied by a mounted shepherd and his dogs. Add a full-grown pig lazily making its way from one house to the next in one of the little villages. Maybe add a dog or two sunning itself in the road, as men, women and kids step around it.
In every village, every house has a garden, every garden has a grapevine, and almost every grapevine has its own personal winemaker who makes small batches for the family. Near the vines you can spot a walnut, apple or a persimmon tree. Chickens scratch for bugs among the tomato plants.
Nobody goes hungry in Kakheti.
Telavi – Capital of Kakheti and Napa’s Sister City
Telavi, the Kakheti region’s capital, has been around since the 1st century, when it was a stop on one of the trade routes from the Middle East to Europe. Today it hosts a sizeable market where you can pick up anything that you haven’t grown yourself. Interestingly, Telavi has been the sister city of Napa, California since 1987.
In the countryside around the city, several old monasteries show the remnants of their winemaking histories, the potbellied ceramic vessels called quevri, which are filled with macerated grapes, buried in the ground and left as the liquid ripens into wine in the traditional fashion.
At Alaverdi Monastery, you can sample natural wines that the Alaverdi monks make according to this ancient method. Typically, natural wines in eastern Georgia are aged with their stems and skins, making the colors deeper and the acidity gentler.
Signagi – A Small Town with an Important Winery
The little walled town of Signagi overlooks the Alazani Valley. Its walls and towers were built of cobble and brick in the 18th century, by order of Erekle II, King of Kakheti and Kartli.
Here in this lovely town you can find Pheasant’s Tears Winery, producing organic wines in the traditional fashion from varietal grapes that grow well in the Kakhetian micro-region. The name of the winery comes from a Georgian legend in which the hero claims that it takes a “wine beyond measure” to make a pheasant cry tears of joy.
The winery has its own restaurant as well, where the brilliant Georgian wines are paired with nouveau-traditional dishes sourced from local gardens, vineyards and wild places. A visitor here can enter into the full Kakhetian experience, feasting, toasting and singing songs for hours, the way they like to do it all over Georgia, but especially in wine country, Kakheti.
Travel to Georgia with MIR
Experience an Insider’s Tour of GeorgiaHead to Georgia to enjoy unforgettable cuisine and natural wines on MIR’s tour, A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture.
Or, travel and tour around Georgia and the other South Caucasus countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan, on one of our 3-country small group tours:
You can also opt to travel on your dates and at your pace on one of MIR’s private independent trips or on a private journey of Georgia, customized to your desired dates and style.
Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your travels now.
(Top photo: Georgian grape vines in the Kakheti region – Photo credit: Mariana Noble)
PUBLISHED: March 23, 2015