Grapevine Regions of Georgia

 
 
♦ Georgia's diverse natural conditions create the best environment for the development of high quality viticulture-winemaking according to the peculiarities of which the country s territory is divided into the following viticulture zones and micro-zones:
 
 
  • Kakheti. Sub-zones: Shida Kakheti, Gare Kakheti.

This glorious province, dominated by its surrounding mountains, is the most eastern and important of Georgiass wine regions. Thus, for this reason alone, it is also at the top of the tourist routes. Yet there is still more to see in this highly diverse province: to the north it also includes the beautiful, isolated Tusheti mountain region and to the south the chain of ancient monasteries of Davit Gareji speards across the lunar landscape of the high steppe land.

The climate and terrain are ideal for viticulture. Here are 65 per cent of the countrys vines, the vineyards filling the valleys of the rivers Alazani and Iori and the foothills of the CauCasus Mountains, Tsiv-Gombori range and lowlands of the Azerbaijan border.

In kakheti, visitors can feel the power of Georgian wine, its softness, depth and unforgettable flavor. 

Georgian winemaking is renowned for its unique methods. The tradition of making wine in Qvevri is a key sign that distinguishes Georgian wine from all other wines in the world. Qvevri wines are produced throughout Kakheti in all two sub-zones.

The most widespread white varieties of grapes in Kakheti are: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Khikhvi, kisi, Grdzelmtevana, Vardisferi Rkatsiteli, Kumsi, Ghrubela and Chitistvala.

Reds are: Saperavi, Tsiteli Budeshuri, Kumsi, Ikaltos Tsiteli, Kharistvala and Jghia.

 

  • Kartli. Sub-zones: Kvemo Kartli, Shida Kartli and Mtskheta-Mtianeti.

Kartli is a large region made up of 3 administrative units: Shida (inner) kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Kvemo (lower) kartli. Kartli also includes Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. There are other factors that give special importance to this region - it is a great wine tourism destination, a historical-cultural heritage rich with tourist attractions and rich in agriculture.

Kartli is a very distinguished winemaking region of Georgia. Due to the existence of many endemic varieties of grapes, Kartlian wines are very different from the wines of other regions. In Kartli, vineyards are often situated at an altitude of 750-800 meters above sea level, however, some of the best wines are made from the grapes grown at an altitude of 400-50 meters. Vineyards in Kartli are located primarily on the plains and on the gentle slopes; although, there are some rare examples when they are located on steeper slopes and on terraces. The vast majority of the vineyards are arranged in classical style, with the vines supported by stakes, but in some gorges (e.g. the Ateni Gorge) the vines are trained to grow in a vertical manner on pergola type structures.

The traditional method of winemaking in Kartli - as in the regions of Kakheti, Imereti and Racha - stipulates the use of Qvevri. 

The Kartli region is also famous for its sparkling wines. Most of the grapes grown in this region - Goruli Mtsvane and Chinuri, as well as French varieties such as Pinot Noir and Aligote - are used for producing Georgian wines.

 

  • Samtskhe-Javakheti

The Samtskhe-Javakheti region lies in southern Georgia. It borders the regions of imereti and Shida (inner) Kartli to the north, Kvemo (lower) Kartli to the east, Adjara and Guria to the west and Turkey and Armenia to the south. The primary viticulture area is Meskheti (commonly referred to as Samtskhe). This area is comprised of the municipalities of Akhaltsikhe, Aspindza and Adigeni. Traditionally terraced, the vineyards were grown in the gorgos and on the slopes of the Mtkvari River and its tributaries.

The region of southern Georgia are the most archaic hearths of viticulture and winemaking of the country. Several monuments related to wine culture, such as wine cellars, former vineyards, centennial vines and other significant artifacts are preserved here, proving the special role of this area in the development of the Georgian wine culture over the millennia.

Samtskhe-Javakheti vineyards start at Kvishkheti. In Kvishkheti, Kvishkhuri (Goruli Mtsvane), Shavkapito and other varieties of grapes have been grown over very large territories. However, some consider Kvishkheti as part of Shida (inner) Kartli region, therefore, it is more proper to refer to Akhaltsikhe, Aspindza and Adigeni regions as viticulture and winemaking hearths of the southern Georgia. Vineyards in Samtskhe-Javakheti are traditionally planted in the gorges and on the slopes of the Mtkvari River and its tributaries. The viticulture zones are broken down by the altitude above sea level. There is a lower zone at an altitude of 900-1000 meters, the middle zone at 1000-1200 meters and the upper zone at 1200-1400 meters.

The meskheti region is one of the highest vine-growing regions in Georgia and perhaps even in the whole world. Here, vines grow at an altitude of 900-1700 meters above sea level.

The Varieties of grape grown in Meskheti include Roketula, Samariobo, white and red Tskhenisdzudzu, Bezhana, Shavi Aspindzuri, Akhaltsikhis Tetri, Tskhenis Dzua, Tamaris vazi, Meskhuri Kharistvala, Meskhuri Mtsvane, Meskhuri Kurdzeni, Tavdakiduli, Tavtsetskhla, Meskhuri Tita, Kldis Tsiteli, Sapareuli, white and red Budeshuri, Mamlitvala and Klertmagara. Additionally there are several Kartlian and Kakhetian grape varieties, including Goruli Mtsvane, Shavkapito, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi.

 

  • Imereti

Imereti is one of the most diverse wine regions in Georgia. It stretches from the Likhi Mountain Range in the east to the Kolkhrti Lowlands in the west, and from the Racha-Lechkhumi region in the north to the Meskheti Mountain Range to the south. Imereti comprises the Sachkhere, Chiatura, Kharagayli, Zestaponi, Baghdati, Tkhibuli, Terjola, Tskhaltubo, Vani, Samtredia and Khoni municipalities. Its vineyards mostly grow in the gorges of the Rioni River and its tributaries - Chkherimela, Dzirula, Kvirila, Khanistskhali, Tskhenistskhali and Sulori rivers and their own tributaries.

70% of Imereti's territory is mountainous and many places have different climates and types of soil, which is why Imeretian wines are extremeley diverse. The most widespread wine in Imereti is Tsitska-Tsolikouri, and when pressed together these two varieties of grape very often give amazing results. Of the region's white wines, Krakhuna, is the most distinctive, but the number of red wines produced from the Otskhanuri-Sapere grape has increased over the past years.

In Imereti - as other regions of Western Georgia - traditional winemaking calls for the use of churi ( same as qvevri ) that are kept in the ground in the yard.

In Imereti, the following varieties of white grape are the most common: Tsolikauri, Tsitska, Krakhuna, Kvishkhuri, Kapistoni, Dondghlabi, Bazaleturi, Kundza and Tklapa. Similarly, the most common varieties of red grapes include Otskhanuri-Sapere, Dzelshavi, Argvetuli-Sapere (Shavi), Rko, Mgaloblishvili, Adanasuri, Bzvanura, Shavi-Dondghlabi and Aladasturi.

 

  • Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti

The Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo (lower) Svaneti region consists of three historical regions: Racha, Lechkhumi, and Kvemo Svaneti. The viticulture and winemaking region of Racha is located in the north-eastern corner of western Georgia. It includes a large part of the Ambrolauri municipality as well as the Oni municipality. Vineyards there are mostly situated in the gorges of the Rioni River and its tributaries, along the right and left banks of the Rioni River. To the north-west, Racha borders Kvemo-Svaneti, Ossetia lies to the north, Shida (inner) Kartli-to the east, Imereti-to the south and Lechkhumi-to the west.

Lechkhumi is located in the north-eastern corner of western Georgia, and borders Racha to the east, Kvemo-Svaneti to the north, the mountains of Samegrelo to the west and imereti to the south. The region is comprised of the Tsageri municipality and the villages of the Rioni, Tskhenistkhali and Lajanuri River gorges.

Kvemo-Svaneti stretches from the source of the Tskhenistkali River gorge to the Mure Bridge, near the town of Tsageri. It borders Zemo (upper) Svaneti to the north and Lechkhumi to the south. It is separated from Zemo-Svaneti by the high Svaneti mountain range and Latphari pass.

This magnificent region of Georgia has its own unique wines and, unlike Kakheti, vineyards occupy much less space (approximately 1600 ha). 

The most importent micro-zone in Kvemo-Racha is Khvanchkara, which stretches from the village of Tsesi up to village of Kvishara. For Kvanchkara, grapes are harvested when their sugar level is no less than 23 percent. Almost all the harvest is purchased by the local wineries and wineries of other regions of Georgia that produce the "Khvanchkara" PDO wine.

The most notable wines to be produced in Lechkhumi are the naturally semi-sweet wine Tvishi made from Tsolikouri grapes, ideally-suited to the summer. This wine is the PDO of the Lechkhumi region. Tvishi grapes grown locally are used to make spendid dry Tsolikouri wine.

Most of the varieties of grape found in Racha are local, and the most widespread white grapes are Tsulukidzis Tetra and Tsolikouri. Common red grapes include Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Rachuli-Dzelshavi and Saperavi. Rare varieties from Racha include White Aleksandrouli, Arabeuli, Tkhmorula, Kapistoni, Kudurauli, Mokaturi, Rachuli-Mtsvivani, Nakutvneuli, Rachuli-Mtsvane, Natsara, Sakmevela, Rachuli-Khikhvi, Rtskhila and Khoteuri.

Tsolikouri, Orbelis-Ojaleshi and Usakhelouri are widespread varieties of grape in Lechkhumi; however, the Orbelis-Ojaleshi and Tsolikouri from Tvishi varieties of grape are relatively recent arrivals in Georgia winemaking and were unknown in this region in the early 19th century.

Vines do not grow in Kvemo-Svaneti due to its severe climate conditions; therefor, viticulture and winemaking is not developed. The local people bring wine from other regions.

 

  • Guria

Guria is situated in south-west part of Georgia. It borders Imereti to the north-east, the Black Sea to the west, the Guria-Adjara mountains to the south, and the Rioni River lowlands to the north. Guria comprises the Ozurgeti, Ckokhatauri, and Lanchkhuti municipalities. The region's vineyards are primarily located in the gorges of the Supsa, Bakhvistskhali, Pichori, Khevistskhali, Gubazouli, Achistskhali, Bjuji and Natanebi rivers.

Guria is another region in Georgia, where viticulture and winemaking is experiencing a revival and where the first wine tourism attractions have only recently appeared. This region is very interesting for wine-lovers.

vineyards in Guria are mostly planted in the river gorges and on the slopes. Among the Georgian varieties, the most popular are Tsolikouri and then Guria's pride and joy, Chkhaveri, which is sometimes harvested as late as November or even December. The best Chkhaveri grapes are grown in several of the villages of the Chokhatauri and Ozurgeti municipalities.

Guria had been one of the tradutional hearths of Qvevri-making, and the masters of this rarest craft still produce Qvevri in Guria.

The most samous from local historical varieties of grapes are: ChKhaveri, Jani, Mtevandidi, Skhilatubani, Zenaturi, Sakmiela; however, in Guria, the most widespread variety is still Tsolikouri.

 

  • Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti

In terms of viticulture and winemaking, Samegrelo must be one of the archaic and most interesting regions in Georgia. The region is located in northwestern Georgia, which borders Svaneti and Abkhazia to the north, Guria to the south, Imereti to the east and the Black Sea to the west. It comprises the regions of Martvili, Senaki, Abasha, Chkhorotku, Tsalenjikha, khobi and Zugdidi. Samegrelo's vineyards are mostly located on the foothill areas, in the gorges of the Tekhura, Abasha, Enguri, Khobistskhali and Tskhenistskhali rivers.

Samegrelo is a very distinctive region of Georgia in terms of viticulture and winemaking. As in Guria and Adjara, the Maghlari growing method was used to grow vines up trees until the 20th century. Grapes grown in Samegrelo's lowlands are inferior in quality, whereas those grown in the foothills, in the gorge of the rivers Abasha and Tekhura, make the best wine. Despite the region's high humidity, spendid wines are made from vineyards located on the southern and south-eastern slopes.

Samegrelo's most famous variety is Ojaleshi. Ojaleshi grapes are usually harvested relatively late, in November and sometimes even in December or January. Winemaking methods are extremely diverse. In Samegrelo wine is sometimes left in contact with its marc and stalks during fermentation while other methods are quite unique due to their antique origin. 

The best Ojaleshi grapes are grown in the Salkhino and Tamakoni zones. In terms of winemaking, the region of Samegrelo must be the hearth of the most archaic culture in Georgia. Ancient sources refer to the region of Colchis, and many European travelers have described the local wine culture in their writings. Additionally, ethnographic literature on viticulture and winemaking in Samegrelo is also very rich.

While the red variety Ojaleshi remains the icon of Megrelian viticulture and winemaking, Tsolikouri is the most commonly grown variety in the region. The main Megrelian varieties of grape include Ojaleshi, Godaaturi, Chvitiluri, Chechipeshi, Paneshi, Chergvali and Cheshi.

 

  • Adjara

Adjara is located in south-western Georgia, which borders the Guria-Adjara Mountains to the north, the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti to the east, Turkey to the south, and Black Sea to the west. Adjara comprises the municipalities of Kobuleti, Khelvachauri, Keda, Shuakhevi and Khulo. Vineyards in the region are mostly located on the mountain foothills and in the valley of the Chorokhi and Acharistskhali rivers and the tributaries of the Acharistkhali, the Chakvistskhali and Kintrishi rivers.

Adjara is one of the most importent wine regions of and subtropical zones in Georgia. Many people are actively involved in winemaking and do their best to rejuvenate older varieties of grapes. Additionally, vineyard owners have begun to cultivate varieties brought from other parts of Georgia.

The most widely grown varieties of grape in the Adjara region is Tsolikouri and the Gurian variety Chkhaveri, from which the Adjarians make marvelous wines, no lesser in terms of quality and quantity than those made in Guria itself. Local varieties include: Brola, Khopaturi, Klarjuli, Mekrenchkhi, Burdzghala, Kviristvala, Skhaltauri, Shavshura, Chodi, Javakhetura, Jineshi, Satsuri and Batomura.