Insider’s Guide to the South Caucasus: 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:
Even today, traditional Georgian winemakers still use this method. In 2013 UNESCO elected Georgia’s qvevri method of winemaking to its .
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.
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.
Here in this lovely town you can find , 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.
Or, you can opt to travel on your dates and at your pace on MIR’s independent private trips: Essential Georgia, Essential Georgia & Armenia or Essential Caucasus. MIR also specializes in custom, private tours of Georgia and the South Caucasus.
(Top photo: Georgian grape vines in the Kakheti region – Photo credit: Mariana Noble)
PUBLISHED: March 23, 2015