As you know, you can drink wine at any time of the year, because, according to experts, this drink warms you up and keeps you cool in the heat – the main thing is to choose the right variety. Where else but in Georgia is it worth learning such a delicate art? After all, according to historical data, it was in Georgia that the first cultivation of viticulture took place. According to archaeological excavations, wine vessels and the first distillation plants were created in these parts at the dawn of Homo sapiens, and grapes have been growing in modern Georgia since ancient geological eras.
Georgian wines, what and where to drink
Georgia has three main wine-growing regions:Kakheti, Imereti and Kartli.
- Kakheti (or Eastern Georgia) is the largest region with 14 officially controlled names. “Kakheti, Akhasheni, Vazisubani, Kindzmarauli, Tsinandali, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi are produced here. According to the Kakhetian technology, no twigs are removed from the must, and the wine itself is aged in conical clay kvevri jugs. The taste of the wine is more intense and tart. Most wine tours are held in Kakheti.
- Imereti (or Western Georgia) is a region with 70% of its territory covered by mountains. Local wines are not particularly well known, but deserve no less attention. “Krakhuna, Gelati, Tsitska, Sviri, Dimi, Tbilisuri are mild and slightly more acidic due to the fact that the branches and cuttings of the bunch are removed before fermentation.
- Kartli (or South Georgia) – plains along the banks of the Kura River at an altitude of 600–700 meters above sea level. The climate is arid and hot in summer, requiring artificial irrigation of vineyards, but it also produces the maximum amount of natural sugars. The harvest is harvested here earlier than in other regions. “Atenuri, Dirbula and other lesser-known wines can usually be tasted and purchased only at wineries.
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How much does it cost
The cost of wine tours to Georgia varies depending on the number of days and the intensity of the program, the time of year and the tour operator’s imagination. During a week-long program, tourists visit 3–4 wineries, each of which organizes a tasting and often a master class with a gastronomic theme: bread baking, cooking churchkhela and other Georgian dishes.
In general, budget 4- to 5-day winery tours will cost from 14-16 thousand UAH per person, including accommodation, meals and program activities. Airfare is additionally paid – from 3-4 thousand UAH round-trip. Week-long tours will cost from 20 thousand UAH plus flight. The prices on the page are as of January 2019.
The cost of the tour also depends on the level of the wineries visited. Large wineries offer a general tasting of common wine brands, which is usually cheaper. In private farms, you can try exclusive collection wines, and even accompanied by a fascinating story from the owner.
Determining the average cost of a bottle of Georgian wine is also a thankless task. Homemade wine can be bought for 1-2 USD per liter. Inexpensive table wine from the winery will cost 3-5 USD. Classical wines of decent quality will cost from 7-8 USD, and noble wines with complex bouquets cannot be cheaper than 10-15 USD. It is almost impossible to determine the maximum price for a rare wine.
When to go
The ideal time for wine tours to Georgia is the harvest period in September-October. The trip will be not only interesting – you can watch the winemakers at work – but also comfortable: the summer heat has already subsided in the valleys, and the rains and frosts have not yet begun.
When planning to go on such a tour, you should first of all decide on the region and only then – on the dates. The fact is that the climate in different parts of the country differs significantly. In the east, grapes ripen earlier, and winemakers are in a hurry to harvest for fear of frost. In the west, where there is no such threat, on the contrary, the berries are left on the bush longer to gain sweetness naturally. Accordingly, they are harvested later – in mid-October, and after a cool summer – at the end of the month.
There is no analog of Beaujolais Nouveau in Georgia – they simply know that while young wine is maturing, they are supposed to drink old wine with double the energy.
Georgia would not be Georgia if grape harvesting was not turned into a colorful holiday and a reason for fun, which the country’s residents try to time their vacations around. The Rtveli holiday is both work and leisure at the same time: the cutting of the bunches is followed by their crushing, accompanied by songs, and then a loud feast – and so on every day.
For all its comprehensiveness, Rtweli is primarily a family holiday, and it will not be easy to get to the festivities from the street, so it is better to resort to the services of tour operators.
Excursions with tasting
As a rule, tourists are offered wine tours for 5-7 days with visits to wineries and sightseeing.
In Kakheti, for example, people not only travel to wineries in the Alazani Valley, but also visit the ancestral estate of the Chavchavadze princes, see the 8th-century Ikalto Monastery and climb the Gremi Castle. In addition to classic wines of the Alazani Valley, Gruzvinprom’s tasting rooms offer Aragvi and Varcise cognacs.
A standard tour of a winery begins with a walk around the grounds. The guide, who is often a winemaker or even the owner of the company, tells you about the varieties, flavors in the bunch and the different stages of wine production. Then they visit the production facilities where grapes are turned into must and put into fermentation, and then they are taken to the cellar where the wine matures and is stored in bottles.
The theory is followed by practice: tourists are taken to a tasting, where they taste 5 to 10 varieties of wine. Oenologists will tell you about the qualities of each variety and draw attention to the characteristic features of the taste. At the end of the tour, guests will be able to purchase their favorite wines.
What to take with you
The logical answer is wine, wine, and more wine, though only within the restrictions of customs legislation. Every adult citizen of Ukraine has the right to import 3 liters of alcoholic beverages duty-free. Another 2 liters can be imported in excess of the permitted amount by paying a duty (quite high, the wine will become significantly more expensive).
In practice, customs officers rarely inspect arrivals’ luggage, but you shouldn’t rely on their indulgence – if the norm is exceeded, you’ll have to part with the wine.
It is not recommended to take home wine from Georgia in household containers. The residual fermentation processes in the drink are not yet complete, and the pressure drop in the airplane can cause the bottle to burst and ruin your luggage, as well as that of other passengers. In addition, homemade wine is practically not stored and quickly turns into vinegar.