Travel Guide to Kakheti Wine Region

Things to know before visiting Kakheti

 

1.Georgia is recognized as the homeland of wine. Artifacts have been found in the territory of Georgia that provide evidence for an 8000-year-old continuous tradition of winemaking. For millennia, the varying cultures of Georgia have maintained the Qvevri technique of making wine. Today, the same wine-making style is still as popular and is an integral part of the identity of Georgian winemaking.

2. Qvevri winemaking method is what every Georgian is proud of. A Qvevri is a large clay vessel with a specific shape. In the Georgian language, Qvevri means “buried in the ground”, which in itself tells us about the essence of this technique. The Qvevri is buried in the ground but with the top exposed above ground to easily control the vinification process. The Qvevri is sealed with a wooden or stone cover, which is encased in a layer of clay, acting as a sealant. The opening of a Qvevri usually takes place in spring and is always followed by a celebration, an event worth witnessing. It makes spring one of the best periods to visit Kakheti.

Georgian Qvevri clay vessels for fermenting and preserving wine

Since the processes of fermenting wine in a Qvevri are largely natural, without human intervention, it is often a big surprise what wine you will find when opening the Qvevri. That is why every winemaker is excited to open the Qvevri and why it is followed by a celebration. It may sound like a big risk for the wine maker to take, but they will quickly tell you it is a risk worth taking, and that this uncertainty is an intrinsic part of Qvevri’s uniqueness and charm. The constant temperature under the ground and micro-oxidation process of clay vessels gives the wine a special color and characteristics. It also softens the tannins, even after several months on the skins, and gives the wine a delicate and velvety structure.

The Qvevri technique is practiced all over Georgia, but when you hear this word, the first thing that comes to mind is the Kakheti wine region.For most Georgians, “Kakhetian wine” cais closely associated with “Qvevri wine”. Therefore, the best way to be introduced to the Qvevri method is to start from the Kakheti wine region.

Since 2013, when UNESCO introduced the ancient tradition of Qvevri winemaking in the list of intangible cultural heritage, this method has become even more popular and has spread beyond Georgia. Trends in re-mastering the Qvevri technique can be found in different wine regions around the world. Representatives of the old world and new world are actively testing making the wine in clay, amphora-like vessels.

 

Get to know Kakheti wine region and its terroir

 

The Kakheti Wine Region is located in the eastern part of Georgia and comprises two river basins, Ivri and Alazani. These rivers have a significant influence on the character of Kakhetian wines. Kakheti is bordered on the west by another very important wine region of Georgia – Kartli. To the east and south is Azerbaijan. The northern part of Kakheti is bordered by the Caucasus ridge and there is nothing more beautiful than looking at the Kakheti vineyards glistening in the sun and counting the white clouds floating above the Caucasus ridge.

Together with the location, the climatic conditions of the region play an essential role in the formation of Kakheti wines. Kakheti vineyards are cultivated at an altitude of 250-800 meters above sea level. We can find both humid subtropical as well as continental climates in the region. The climate is also influenced by the dry air of the Caspian Sea and the moist air masses of the Black Sea. Humid air coming from the west is mostly held back by the Likhi ridge, which divides Georgia into its eastern and western parts. Thanks to the Likhi ridge, the amount of annual rainfall is much lower in Kakheti than would otherwise be the case. The driest seasons in the Kakheti wine region are summer and winter, but it is worth traveling in spring and autumn as well, the gentle rainy days add their own wistful romance to the vineyards of Kakheti.

The view on Alazani valley and Caucasus Mountains, Kakheti wine region, Georgia

On both sides of the road from Tbilisi to Kakheti, you can see rows of beautiful vineyards and if you can not resist the temptation, you can easily stop and take a walk through them – most Kakhetian vineyards are not fenced and you can visit them freely. You will probably notice a particularly dark-colored soil – the reason for this is the high concentration of iron in it. Don’t forget to look for these same tones of the earth in your wine glass later.

 

Discover the grape varieties you have never heard of before

Kakheti terroir provides ideal conditions for both local varieties and international wine varieties as well. When talking about the Kakheti wine region, the first thing that comes to mind is Rkatsiteli and Saperavi grapes. These two wine varieties have become the face of the region and Georgia. With the increase in the awareness of Georgian wine, the interest in these varieties is growing, so do not be surprised if you encounter these Kakhetian wine varieties in different wine regions in the world.


Let’s meet Rkatsiteli, to add vivid colors to life 

Rkatsiteli is the main grape variety of Kakheti wine region, Georgia.Rkatsiteli is the main white variety of Kakheti. It is characterized by its elegance and a high ability to adapt to the environment. It feels comfortable even in frost. It is equal in frost resistance to even the Riesling and Pinots of the northern wine regions. Rkatsiteli is as diverse as the Kakheti region itself. You can taste dry white made with both conventional white wine techniques as well as the ancientQvevri method, but also fortified and sweet dessert wines made by this grape.

As a young classic white wine, it displays a familiar yellow-green color. Over time, Rkatsiteli wine develops a deep golden hue. The wine made by the Kakhetian method varies between amber and brown according to their age. The Rkatsiteli aroma profile is dependent on the technology of winemaking. However, we can select a few aromas that are most often found in Rkatsiteli wine:

  • Green Apple
  • Raw nuts
  • Quince
  • Citrus
  • Walnuts
  • Tropical fruit
  • Dried apple
  • Georgian spices

Rkatsiteli has also found a role as table grapes. If you arrive in Kakheti during the harvest period, it will be difficult not to eat the delicious, sweet, and full grapes right off the vines while you are picking them.

Meet Saperavi, which will be telling age-old stories

Saperavi is the leading red grape variety from Kakheti, it is versatile enough to produce dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and fortified wines, both with the Qvevri method as well as the conventional method.

.. Wines made from Saperavi have pronounced characteristics and are easy to distinguish from other kakhetian red wines, and wines from all other regions of the world for that matter!. This ancient wine variety seems to tell the story of centuries-worth of tradition with its staidness and elegance. The intensity of the colors and aromas gives us a strong, deep wine that lingers with its presence. It should also be noted that the pulp of the Saperavi berry is itself red (a so-called teinturier grap) – an unusual trait for red wine varieties – which is reflected in the intensity of the color of Saperavi wine. Saperavi wine in Kakheti is often referred to as “black wine” by the locals, know you understand why.

  • Ripe dark fruits
  • Cassis and spice
  • Cherry
  • Blackberry
  • Blackcurrant
  • Plum
  • Licorice
  • Coffee

Saperavi wines are distinguished by high quality and great aging potential, which will allow you to spend Kakheti evenings with Saperavi wines of different ages. For sure, you will fall in love with many things in Kakheti, and Saperavi will be one of the first.

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