Explore the Cradle of Wine – Kakheti

Saturday, May 29, 2021 Travel Guides by Ani

Winerists are constantly looking for newer destinations to explore the tastiest and the most extravagant wine locations around the world. Almost every continent and every corner of our planet offer unique and distinguishing tastes of wine. Wine enthusiasts are not expecting simply delicious drinks, but also an extraordinary adventure. However, it is extremely rare to come across a place that is equally beautiful, rich in wine history, incredibly tasty, and cost-efficient at the same time. One of the most enchanting and premier wine regions is located on the merge of Europe and Asia in an ultimate haven of the winery, Georgia.

Kakheti is a small and one of the oldest regions of Georgia that accounts for over millennia of winemaking history. The viniculture of Georgia, specifically the Kakheti region attracts millions of international tourists every year. The local community here has designed a unique signature method of wine production that dates back several thousands of years and the methods are UNESCO-listed for their cultural values. While exploring this small destination you will come across numerous medium and large-scale wineries, as well as small family cellars. You can hear the incredible stories of ancient wine-making traditions from these family hosts.

Cradle of Wine – Kakheti

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Kakheti is one of the most significant regions of the whole country and it takes up the entire eastern part of Georgia. That is why the region has several climates types and various dramatic landscapes ranging from semi-desert to mountainous. The variety in soil, climate, and landscape allowed more than 500 endemic varieties of grapes to grow in the whole country. However, more than 70% of the total harvest belongs to the Kakheti region.

According to the archaeological evidence, the winemaking culture of Kakheti has roots in the 6th millennium BC, which might be the earliest wine production recorded on the whole European continent. Nowadays, the method of producing the wine is a pure mix of local Qvevri tradition and European techniques.

Local Winemaking Traditions

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Kakhetians harvest the grapes during the early Autumn season which is often accompanied by the famous Harvest Festival. They deliver the grapes to a special processing winery room which translates to Marani in the local language. Historically, people used to press the grapes directly with their feet in a hollowed tree trunk. The juice would flow into the flutes and eventually in an immense amphora made of clay  – Qvevri. This technique is 100% authentic to the region and is recognized as an incredibly valuable heritage by UNESCO.

The method is still preserved till today, despite the fact that the majority of large-scale wineries now combine the traditional techniques with the European style. However, the traditional method guarantees the purest way of obtaining juicy pulp without including remaining tannins. The Qvevri must be dug underground in order to keep the consistent temperature during the fermentation. These vessels can accommodate several hundreds of liters and some of them even have a volume exceeding several tons.

Variety of Wines

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With over 50,000 hectares of grapes available for cultivation in Georgia, 75% of them are white endemic grapes, while only 25% are red. Despite the fact that the majority of Georgian grapes are white, the most popular wine exported overseas from the country is essentially red wine. Most of the red wine varieties can be found in the Kakheti region and the most prominent wine among them is Saperavi. The name of the grape translates into paint or dye. It is an acidic and teinturier grape, which is very rarely used in single-varietal wine-making. The wine is suitable for extended aging which can exceed 50 years and could also be found as a high-alcohol wine. Most of the producers deliver dry or semi-sweet wine using late-harvested Saperavi grapes and age them for around two or three years.

Sightseeing in Kakheti

Kakheti itinerary

The region offers breathtaking views and landscapes, as well as historical architectural masterpieces ranging from ancient monasteries to cave complexes, hilltop towns, and beautiful ruins of charming castles. Sighnaghi is probably the prettiest town in the whole country with the cozy streets and ornate balconies. It offers unique panoramic views over the huge Alazany Valley where tourists often sign up for air balloon trips. Many local accommodation options provide a stay in the vineyards so that you can rest your head among the grapes. You can also find luxurious, 5-star hotels that combine both the traditional design and high-class service.

If you are the kind of traveler that enjoys the ultimate adventures then David Gareja cave monastery and the desert is your dream spot. You can explore the rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex straddling the border of Azerbaijan and Kakheti. And you can sign up for the exciting Jeep Tour around the desert.