Georgia: 8,000 Years of Winemaking

A whole week of wine and food tasting, a resurrection for my body and my spirit. Here are the story and my best recommendations.

I wasn’t sure at all about how long time I would spend in Georgia, and what exactly I would do. There’s a lot to discover: beautiful mountain villages, rich culture and history, magnificent treks on the Caucasus mountains… but then, a couple of days after my arrival I received an unmistakable sign from the sky. It started to rain.

A view of Sighnaghi village, a magnificent place to start discovering wine in Georgia, especially if, like me, you are coming from Azerbaijan

Let’s be honest, it isn’t fun to go trekking with a permanent rain threatening sky, and the lack of colours makes photography a boring exercise. So I did the only thing that I could do, the only thing that any sane man who has been travelling for months through Russia and Central Asia would have done: I focused on wine and food!

I literally spent a whole week going around wineries, wine bars and restaurants. Georgia resurrected my body and my spirit with its gastronomy and wine culture.

The underground cellar of Shumi Winery Kakheti, definitely a must go for their great wine and for the wine museum

It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Georgia has 8,000 years of winemaking history to rely upon. Yes, wine comes from Georgia. From here it spread to ancient Egypt and Greece, and from there to Italy and France, and then to the rest of the world. I mean, everyone here owns a vineyard and makes wine. Everywhere I went, my hosts offered me some of their homemade tasty nectar.

A 3,000 years old qvevry, the clay made jar used to prepare traditional Georgian wines still today. This one is at Shumi wine museum. Archaeologists have found proof that wine in Georgia was already being made at least 8,000 years ago

Today, European winemaking system is used consistently, but the pride of the country is their traditional qvevry system, by which the fermentation process happens in big egg-shaped clay jars which are put underground and then sealed with glass and covered with sand.

Well, it’s a little more complex than that, but that’s the gist of it. In a wine museum at Shumi Winery Kakheti (a visit here is highly recommended, also to nearby Alexander Chavchavadze villa and museum, and winery), in Tsinandali village, I have seen some qvevry older than 3,000 years.

The entrance of Alexander Chavchavadze villa and museum, an important historical place as well as a wine tasting site, and what wine, for bottles labelled with the same name as the prince.

The result of these traditional techniques is quite different types of wines compared the ones we are used to drinking in Europe, yet with nothing to envy to the best wines in the world.

Again, not surprisingly, as Georgia is the second country in the world for the number of micro-climates where grapes can grow, and there are at least 400 different types of grapes to make wine with. I mean, if you can’t find fantastic wines here, I don’t know where you would.

A view of Tbilisi overnight. The capital of Georgia is an absolute delight for all lovers of wines and gastronomy

Prices are kind of European for good bottles, but it is less expensive to drink good wines at restaurants or wine bars. Wine bars in Tbilisi often offer wine tastings. There are a plethora of such places, the absolute best I tried in terms of quality of their wine tasting menu is Vino Underground. I can also suggest with no fear the nearby restaurant Salobie Bia for traditional Georgian cuisine, although one thing that Tbilisi is not lacking is good restaurants.

Finally, if you are going to Sighnaghi village, and you should, don’t miss out on Pheasant Tear’s restaurants and winery, an absolute must.

That’s 500 words, let’s go!


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