Georgian wines have a royal lineage; it is considered the source of the first cultivated grapevines. Tools of grape and wine production, clay vessels for wine, and art and jewelry depicting grapes and grape leaves found in Georgia have been dated as far back as 5000 BC. The ancient symbol of Christianity in Georgia, which arrived in the fourth century, is a cross woven of grapevines.
Georgian grape varieties are little known in the West. The two most important grapes used in Georgian wines, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, have the potential to produce excellent, if not great wines. Rkatsiteli is a white variety that is so widely grown in Eastern and Central Europe that it ranks fourth in the world in hectares grown. Saperavi produces substantial deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging, perhaps up to fifty years. Saperavi has the potential to produce high alcohol levels and is used extensively for blending with other lesser varieties.
Georgia has five main regions of viniculture, the principal area being Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia’s grapes. Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. As with these French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For instance, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.
Georgian wines are traditionally fermented in large clay vessels called kvevris and left with skins and seeds for an additional three or four months, but certain wines such as the dry, red Mukuzani are aged in oak casks. Georgia produces a number of sweet and semi-sweet wines such as the semi-sweet red Khvahchkara and sweet Kindzmarauli.