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Nearby Wine Region: Georgia

Georgia is both part of the oldest wine-producing region in the world and a new frontier for the future of wine. By comparison, French wines are youngsters. When you pour a glass of authentic Georgian wine, you are following a tradition that preceded the French industry by several millennia.
Georgian wines have long been highly respected in Russia and many Russian consumers believe that Georgian wines were the best of those produced in the Soviet Union. Even today, when the subject of Russian wines comes up, someone will say “You mean Georgian wines don’t you?”
There is some basis for this claim, and not only because Georgia born Stalin provided the industry with extensive resources. Georgian wines have a royal lineage; its territory is considered by some to be 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 was once planted so widely in Eastern and Central Europe that it was a world leader in terms of 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. There are numerous other indigenous grapes used in specific wines.
Georgia has five main regions of viniculture led by Kakheti, which produces the majority of Georgia’s wine grapes. Traditionally, Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. Georgian wines are often 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.
Unfortunately, popular Georgian labels were widely imitated and counterfeited in the 1990s and reportedly a large amount Georgian wine sold in Russia in the 1990s was bogus. This damaged the industry’s reputation. One Russian winemaker remarked that “if there was so much Georgian wine as is found in shops in Moscow, Georgia would be under a sea of wine.” There is much better control of labels from Georgia and within Russia.
For further information about the Georgian wine industry and its wines, check out published by Alexander Kaffka.