Kakheti, Georgia: Where the Wine Flows Like Water

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August 11th 2021
Published: August 23rd 2021
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When you think of wine and it’s origins, I am willing to bet my bank account that your first thought is not of The Republic of Georgia. Don’t be embarrassed, Georgia was certainly not my first thought if I had to name where wine began, but now that I have been there, tasted it and witnessed the wine making process, I am an enlightened wine drinker. Or at least I am a wine drinker.

I know what you are thinking right now. “Just how much wine were you drinking when you wrote this?” It’s a fair point. I get it. I was skeptical when I first read about Georgia being the birthplace of wine.

This country that is smaller than the state of West Virginia, has seven different climate zones, 49 different soil types and over 300 hundred grape varieties, surely is not the first documented place for wine production. Situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, with fertile lands and dramatic vistas, over the centuries Georgia has been repeatedly ravaged by invaders from every direction. But the Georgians have resisted and persisted, retaining their native languages, culture, religion and identity. Georgians are tough
and they are loyal…they are especially loyal to their wines.

According to historians, archaeologists have traced the world’s first known wine creation back to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000 BC, thus making Georgia the ”cradle of wine.” The early Georgians discovered grape juice could be turned into wine by burying it underground for the winter in large clay vessels known as qvevri. This style of winemaking is uniquely Georgian and wine made this way is indicated on the wine label.

Qvevri (or Kveri) wine-making is practised throughout Georgia, particularly in village communities where unique varieties of grapes are grown. The Qvevri is a large, egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for making, ageing and storing wine. Knowledge and experience of Qvevri wine-making are passed down through generations. What we observed was that basically everyone that lives in wine country has their own plot and each family makes their own wine.

The wine-making process involves pressing the grapes and then pouring the juice, grape skins, stalks and pips into the Qvevri, which is sealed and buried in the ground so that the wine can ferment for five to six months before
being drunk. The tradition of Qvevri wine-making defines the lifestyle of local communities and is an integral part of the Georgian culture. It is as labor intensive as it is traditional.

I absolutely do not consider myself knowledgeable on wine, it’s history or even how to describe it’s taste. I simply know what I like and that is where it ends, but it is fun to compare wines in different countries and it is interesting to learn how they are made and grown. We found the wines of Georgia to be shockingly delicious and could stand up to any wines we have had in the United States. The one thing the Georgian wines lacked in comparison to the wines available Stateside is a the hefty price tag.

Yes, you read that correctly…cheap and delicious. What more does one really need to know?

A few observations about Georgians and their long, documented history of wine making:

* Georgians are very proud of their wine, and consider it part of their culture and history. Their loyalty to their wine is unprecedented. Throughout Georgia, wine could be found everywhere—from
the smallest little cafe to the tiny corner grocery store to the open air farmers market to the gas station. What you could not find, however, was wine grown or produced in any other country.

* The varieties of wine in Georgia are unique and identified by their grape varieties. The most popular red seemed to be Saperavi. There are reds that are served chilled. And there is the most unique, amber wine that is literally orange in color.

* The Georgians have not perfected exporting their prized wines and Georgian wines are not easy to find in North America. They also have not perfected their ability to ship wine for individuals. At each vineyard we asked about sending a case home and it was empathetic, but emphatic “no.” We brought it home the old fashioned way—with lots of padding and prayers that it wouldn’t get damaged in transit.

**For more stories and photos about our travels, please follow along on Facebook at Valeri Crenshaw and on Instagram at Valerispassport!***

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23rd August 2021

Georgian wine-making
Fascinating. Things I absolutely did not know. Thank you.

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