Mastering the skill of pouring wine is impressive. But reciting some exciting details about ancient yet novel Georgian native grapes can be even more impressive. So, here are 7 Georgian grapes to get you started:
Rkatsiteli is Georgia's most planted white grape variety. The name of this late maturing white grape has two meanings: According to its first Georgian translation, Rkatsiteli means "redstem." This translation fits the reddish color of the grape skin. However, as per its second translation, Rkatsiteli also means "red horn."
Georgian winemakers vinify the Rkatsiteli grape in both classic and Qvevri styles. European style Rkatsiteli wine is full of floral and citric notes, while Qvevri Rkatsiteli with light oxidative style gives aromas of honey, species, and dried fruits.
Rkatsiteli gives you versatile possibilities from dry to fortified wines. Fortified Rkatsiteli wine is very similar to Sherry style.
We recommend pairing Rkatsiteli with traditional Georgian meals like Khachapuri, Iranian or Indian cuisine.
Mtsvane, which can be compared to Alsatian Riesling, is one of the highly appreciated Georgian white grape varieties. The word "Mtsvane" means green in the Georgian language, which fits the greenish-colored berries of the Mtsvane grape.
Wines made from 100% Mtsvane are typically characterized by stone fruits and minerality. To add fruitiness and aromatic intensity, Georgian winemakers often blend Mtsvane with the Rkatsiteli grape. Notably, that's how the first European style white wine, "Tsinandali" was made in Georgian.
We recommend pairing wines made from Mtsvane with Asian cuisine; it also goes well with shrimp, pork, or duck.
Kisi is a famous Kakhetian white grape variety that gives exceptional Qvevri wines, characterized by dried apricot, walnut, and ripe pear aromas.
In terms of its aromatic intensity and structure, Kisi could be placed between Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane. Some scientists believe that the Kisi grape might be a hybrid of Rkatsiteli and Mstvane. However, this theory needs further examination.
As one of the leading Georgian winemakers, Kakha Tchotiashvili, has shown, Kisi and Mtsvane could also provide an outstanding wine. Learn more about the Specially Bottled Ilia's First Vintage.
We recommend pairing Kisi wines with spiced meats, grilled fish, and salads.
Tsolikouri is an Imeretian white grape variety that ripens late and has floral aromas, citruses, and yellow fruits. It can be compared to Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino.
Imeretian winemakers often blend the Tsolikouri grape with its sibling grapes of Tsitska and Krakhuna. A great example of such a blend is Baia's wine.
We recommend pairing Tsolikouri with seafood, oysters, soft cheeses, and grilled vegetable dishes.
Saperavi is Georgia's most famous red grape variety.
With its deep, opaque color, Saperavi resembles ink and belongs to a teinturier grape. A teinturier grape is a red wine grape that has not only dark skin but also red flesh. The word "teinturier" comes from the French "to dye or stain." Simirally, the name "Saperavi" also means "dye" in Georgian.
Saperavi wines have aromas of blackberries, dried prune, and spices. Depending on the region and winemaking technique, Saperavi grapes offer versatile style wines. For example, Saperavi wines made with traditional Kakhetian style in Qvevri can be compared with Shiraz from Rioja, whereas oak-aged Saperavi wines taste more like Bordeaux style.
We recommend pairing Saperavi with hard cheeses, Georgian traditional meal "Mtsvadi" or ragout.
Otskhanuri Sapere (ოცხანური საფერე)
If Saparvi is the most famous grape from Kakheti, Otskhanuri Sapere is a king of reds in the Imereti region of Georgia. Like the Saperavi grape, Otskhanuri Sapere is also a part of the teinturier grape group.
Young Otskhanuri Sapere wines could have some intense tannins. Moreover, the flavor intensity is also high with red berries, clean earth notes, and black current notes. In general, well-made Otskhanuri Sapere wines have high aging potential, which can only improve the wine's structure year by year.
We recommend pairing Otskhanuri Sapere with Caesar's mushrooms or roasted piglet.
With a limited yield of approximately 3 tons per year, Usakhelauri is one of the rarest red grape varieties not only in Georgia but in the world in general.
Referencing its exceptional quality, the Georgian translation of Usakhelauri means "unnameable," "nameless."
Most grapes of Usakhelauri are planted in a small village with around 700 inhabitants in Georgia and are famous for making semi-sweet wines.
Usakhelauri wines are characterized by bright ruby colors and red berry aromas. We recommend pairing them with smoked cheese or traditional Georgian dessert, "Churchkhela."
By Tamuka Araviashvili, the wine-educator from Georgia