Georgia has 10 wine regions: Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Meskheti, Guria, Kvemo Svaneti, Samegrelo, Adjara, and Abkhazia. Today, we will look at Georgia’s leading wine regions and compare them to wine regions in Europe to provide a complete perspective of what each area offers.
Kakheti vs. Rioja
Kakheti is likely the first Georgian wine region aficionados learn about. The homeland of Saperavi and Rkatsiteli red grape varieties, Kakheti is the leading wine region in the country, with Saperavi grapes even earning the distinction of “the king of Georgian reds” by many wine enthusiasts. Likewise, Rioja is the top wine region in Spain. It is famous for the Tempranilio and Garnach red grape varieties.
These two prolific wine regions have more in common than their grape varieties; they also have similar climates. The Caucasus Mountains shelter Kakheti from the cold, and the Cantabrian mountains do the same for Rioja. As a result, both regions enjoy a continental climate, which produces full-bodied reds with aging potential. Rioja has a special aging system for wines such as Rioja Joven, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, while Kakheti has created a PDO Mukuzani for only oak-aged Saperavi wines.
One of the great examples of oak-aged reds from Georgia is Chelti’s Saperavi.
Kartli vs. Veneto
Surrounded by the mountains on all sides, Kartli is characterized by extreme and diverse climatic conditions. The valleys, nestled among the mountains, are the perfect environment for viticulture, which the Mtkvari River and its tributaries also assist. As a result, the region is ideal for producing delicate classic whites, reds, and sparkling wines. Along with indigenous grapes, Kartli also has Aligote and Chardonnay plantings.
Kartli shares some similarities with Veneto, one of Italy’s fastest-growing wine regions. Veneto represents a transition between the northern Alpine region to the warmer climate in the south. Like Kartli, Veneto also produces delicate reds, refreshing whites, and sparkling wines. Much like the Veneto region’s signature Soave wine, Kartli also produces refreshing white wines, such as Goruli Mtsvane, and it is considered the best sparkling wine area in Georgia. Could Kartli be the next Prosecco for Georgia?
Taste Iago’s Chinuri to discover one of the best examples from the Kartli region.
Meskheti vs. Priorat
Meskheti is the highest winemaking region in Georgia, and it is the country’s rising star. In this mountainous region, wines are planted at 900 to 1700 meters above sea level.
Meskheti is characterized by short, cold winters and long, warm summers, which make it the driest wine region in Georgia with rare grape varieties like Tamaris Vazi (Tamar’s Vine), Chitistvala (the bird’s eye), Kharistvala (the bull’s eye) and more.
Meskheti’s traditional terraced vineyards remind me of the impressive wine region of the Douro in Portugal. Meskheti also shares a similar history to Priorat in Spain, as both regions experienced difficulties in their winemaking paths. Meskheti was caught up in the historical clashes between Georgia and Turkey, and as a result, Meskhetian vines were destroyed for several centuries. Currently, both Meskheti and Priorat are exclusive wine producers with excellent reputations and prestige. Many scientists agree that Meskheti is one of the archaic wine regions in Georgia with great winemaking potential.
One of the best examples from the Meskheti wine region is Natenadze’s Tamaris Vazi.
Imereti vs. Saint Emilion
Fresh, citric white wines and aromatic reds make Imereti one of the most compatible wine regions in Europe. Imeretian white wines are characterized by the medium body, pleasant acidity, citric notes, and medium tannins. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, you should try Imereti wines.
70% of Imereti’s total surface area is mountainous, while the Black Sea promotes a humid, subtropical climate. Imeretian vines grow in impoverished soil with a combination of clay and limestone.
Imereti wine region is similar to the famous appellation close to the Dordogne River, which has rich clay and chalky soils ideal for the Merlot grape. Saint Emilion also has legendary red wines that, like Imeretian reds, are softer in texture. And Otskhanuri Sapere could be a second Merlot for Georgia.
Try Gvantsa’s Otskhanuri Sapere, which expresses the Imeretian terroir perfectly.
Racha vs. Mosel
Like the Mosel wine region in Germany, Racha is associated with a range of wine styles, from dry or off-dry to semi-sweet or sweet. Because of the cool climate and geographical location, vines are planted on the slopes, which optimize the vineyards’ sun exposure.
Like Mosel, Racha is also characterized by a long growing season, which helps develop the grapes’ high aromatic flavor profile. Both regions are famous for the vineyards overlooking the rivers on which they are planted.
Racha is famous for its semi-sweet red wine “Khvantchkara” (a blend of two red grapes, Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli), while the Mosel wine region is all about one single grape: Riesling. For years, Racha was considered a top producer of semi-sweet red wines, but the region has been entering the dry wine niche over the last several years. Who knows, maybe in several years, Rachuli Tetra (a white grape from Racha) will compete with Riesling too.
By Tamuka Araviashvili, the wine-educator from Georgia