Kakheti is the largest and most well-known wine region in Georgia. Located in the east of the country with the border of Russia and Azerbaijan, a two-hour drive from the capital Tbilisi. The region stretches along the Alazani and Iori river basins, nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. Kakheti covers around 11,300 hectares with 2,400 under vine. Most of the vineyards can be found at an altitude of between 250-800 metres above sea level. Kakheti has a low annual rainfall and has three distinct climates subtropical, warm, and moderately warm. Kakheti is Georgia’s largest PDO (protected destination of origin). It produces around 80% of Georgia’s total wine production.
Three grape varieties that are predominantly grown in Kakheti:
Rkatsiteli – an elegant white variety that adapts to its environment and is frost resistant. It is one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. Rkatsiteli is versatile across the region making dry white to amber qvevri and fortified sweet wines. With green apples, quince, and white peach flavours, very refreshing, when fermented in qvevri you will find notes of dried peach, tropical fruit, and spice.
Mtsvane Kakhuri – a white variety, one of six Mtsvanes grown in Georgia, this one literally means ‘green Kakheti’. It is hardy to frosts but sensitive to disease, its expresses its terroir well. With flavours of fresh white peaches, floral, citrus, and tropical aromas and minerally notes. This variety is often blended.
Saperavi – a red variety literally meaning ‘black wine’ as the pulp, as well as the skin, is dark red. This wine ages well in bottle and in qvevri. It is incredibly versatile making rosé, dry, sweet, fortified wines as well as working well in blends. It is elegant and intense with flavours of cherry, cassis, blackberry, liquorice, and spice.
Wine is an integral part of Kakheti’s identity and therefore the vineyards are a very important part of life. Kakheti vineyards are called ‘Kaks’ and it was tradition to perform rituals to protect the vineyards.
The Bread ritual – a vineyard worker would take specially baked rolls, along with candles and wine into the vineyards during the flowering season. On each of the four sides of the vineyard they would light a candle, pray for the protection and preservation of the vines, break the bread, and throw to each corner of the vineyard.
The Prayer ritual – to ward off pests and rodents, prayers were recited in the vineyards and on red and white cloths prayers were inscribed and tied to the vines.
Feasting (Supra) and toasting go hand in hand with winemaking in Georgia, especially in Kakheti. You will find Churchkhela, a Georgian dessert made with hazelnuts and walnuts soaked in grape juice, and Mtsvadi, BBQ meat enjoyed at Supra throughout the region. A Tamada (leader of the feast) is the toastmaster of the feasting, and it is said that you toast your friends with wine and enemies with beer!