Top 9 varieties of Georgian wines
Georgia, the birthplace of winemaking, is home to more than 500 varieties of local grapes, which is about one sixth of the total number of grape varieties in the world. Georgia's vineyards include endangered grape varieties that are not found anywhere else on earth. Today, some vineyards have libraries of live vines where visitors can taste wines from rare grape varieties.
The Georgian government sponsors a centralized grape library, which is located at the LEPL Agricultural Research Center in Dzhighaur, north of Tbilisi. Vineyards and nurseries contain 437 varieties of local Georgian vines, as well as 350 non-Georgian varieties. Researchers study local varieties to better understand their origin, grape characteristics, disease resistance, and more. The goal is not only to rediscover and identify the lost Georgian grapes, but also to identify the best candidates for the production of quality wines.
TOP VARIETIES OF GEORGIAN GRAPES: SAPERAVI AND RKATSITELI
There are about 50,000 hectares of vineyards in Georgia, of which 75% are occupied by white grape varieties and 25% by red ones. Of course, most of the country's vineyards are planted in the Kakheti region in eastern Georgia, the main wine-growing region of the country. Although there are about 80 grape varieties in Kakheti, the two most famous varieties are Rkatsiteli (white) and Saperavi (red).
Although it is now grown throughout Georgia, as well as abroad, it is believed that the white grape variety Rkatsiteli first appeared in Eastern Georgia in the I century. Rkatsiteli produces noticeably acidic, but balanced white wines with a full flavor profile and good consistency. Restrained and refreshing, with a crisp taste of green apple, notes of quince and white peach, Rkatsiteli wines are more complex if produced using the traditional Georgian qvevri method. Rkatsiteli grapes are used to produce high-quality table wines, regional wines and wines of controlled denomination. Rkatsiteli grapes are often mixed with the Mtsvane Kahuri variety. Georgian dry white wines and semi-sweet wines are produced from Rkatsiteli.
This bold grape variety with a deep fruity and at the same time sharp character with sourness, is a unique alternative to everyday reds. Saperavi, the leading red variety in Georgia, is indigenous to this country. Its name means "place of color". This is one of the few grape varieties in the world - grapes with red flesh and red skin. Saperavi wine has a deep inky and often completely opaque color. It has the aroma and taste of dark berries, licorice, grilled meat, tobacco, chocolate and spices. Georgian dry red wines from the Mukuzani region and semi-sweet red Kindzmarauli are produced from Saperavi.
OTHER HISTORICAL GRAPE VARIETIES
Of the more than 500 grape varieties grown in Georgia, about 40 are currently produced on an industrial scale.
The Chinuri variety, named after the color of the olive tree leaves, is rich and ripens at the end of the season. Chinuri grapes, with hints of wild mint and forest pear with notes of plants and fruits, are best suited for the production of sparkling wines. Sparkling wines of Atenuri are especially famous, characterized by a green or straw shade and softness in taste.
The Goruli Mtsvane variety matures at the end of the season and produces strong white wines with the aroma of lime, wildflowers and spring honey. Goruli Mtsvane is often mixed with Chinuri grapes to get a sparkling wine with a characteristic aroma. Goruli Mtsvane / Chinuri blends are often left to ferment with Tavkveri grapes to produce Hidistauri red wine, which is known for its delicate taste.
Some scientists believe that the white Kisi grape is a hybrid of the Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli varieties. Kisi vines produce a relatively small amount of grapes that ripen in the middle of the season. While classic European and traditional Georgian wines produced from Kisi grapes have an unforgettable aroma and taste, Kisi wines produced in Qvevri are characterized by aromas of ripe pear, calendula, tobacco and walnut.
VARIETIES OF RED GRAPES
The Alexandrouli variety originates and continues to grow on the sunny southern limestone slopes of the Caucasus Mountains in the Racha region of western Georgia. Grapes require a longer growing season, as they ripen later. Wines made from Alexandrouli grapes can be from dry to semi-sweet, usually low in tannins and surprisingly soft, with aromas of raspberries and black cherries.
This variety, used mainly for rose wines, is mainly found in the regions of Guria and Adjara in western Georgia. In the early period of Georgian viticulture, small trees were grown from the vineyards of Chkhaveri - a process known as maglari. Late-ripening and low-yielding Chhaveri grapes are usually harvested in the second half of November. Chkaveri grapes produce soft, harmonious wines with the aroma of white fruits and a moderate or high degree of alcohol.
Shavkapito is one of the local varieties of the Kartli region of Eastern Georgia. Shavkapito has a shorter growing season. Wines from these grapes, whether vinified according to the traditional Qvevri method or in the European style, clearly reflect the terroir. When grown at lower altitudes and on flatter vineyards, Shavkapito produces fuller and more intense wines; when grown on mountain slopes, grapes produce wines with high acidity, bright fruits and a subtle aroma. With notes of cherries and herbs from Shavkapito, you can produce red, pink and sparkling wines.