This sparsely populated region in north western Georgia is often talked of as a mountain paradise with green meadows, lakes, springs, mountain hiking trails and river beaches. It is situated 100 miles north of the capital, Tbilisi, between Imereti and the Greater Caucasus mountains, at 400-5000m above sea level. The region has diverse terroirs (how a region’s climate, soil and aspect affect the taste of wine) with many different soils such as limestone, clay, clay with flint and sandy clay, making it an absolute winemakers heaven.
The climate has high rainfall and high humidity, cold winters and hot dry summers. The uniqueness of its terroir and its climate leads to exceptional, high quality wines. Many are traditionally semi-sweet wines, however winemakers are now tending to make drier wines. This area is where the rarest grape varieties of Georgia are grown, winemakers use traditional (qvevri) and European wine making techniques.
The PDO (protected designation of origin) Khvanchkara is in Racha, most vineyards are planted at between 450-800m above sea level, on the slopes of the Likha ridge and the banks of river Rioni. It is one of the oldest PDO’s in Georgia and a blend of the varieties Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli are used to create the world famous Khvanchkara wine. The main red varieties grown here are, Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Rachuli Dzelshavi, Usakhelouri, Orbeluri, Otskhanuri Sapere and white varieties of Tsitska, Tetra and Tsolikouri.
The vineyards of Royal Khvanchkara winery cover around 18 hectares in five Rachan villages: Sadmelis Chala, Qoveli, Tola, Zhoshkha and Chkvishi. The location of the vineyards is ideal for these rare, ancient grape varieties – Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Usakhelouri and Tsolikouri. The vines grown on the right bank of the Rioni river and on the south-west slopes, at 780-800 metres above sea level, give exceptional growing conditions for the wines.
Usakhelouri – Grown on high mountain slopes, naturally semi-sweet, with intense black plum, cherry and liquorice flavours and aromas of blackcurrants.
Aleksandrouli – Known as the ‘vine of Alexander’, used in the famous Khvanchkara wine but on its own produces dry wine, lighter in hue than other red Georgian wines. With raspberry, strawberry, berries flavours, a very complex wine.
Khvanchkara – This famous wine is a blend of Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli grapes. The nose is complex with caramelised black cherry, vanilla and cinnamon. It is semi-sweet, with an intense purple colour, full bodied red strawberry and raspberry notes and soft, velvet tannins.
Tsolikouri – Pale gold coloured dry wine with greenish tinge with hints of gooseberry, white peach and floral notes.
Tvishi – Made from Tsolikouri grapes grown high up in the mountains of Racha. This particular Tvishi wine is characterised by a light straw colour, tropical fruit and apricot aromas with notes of pear, and a pleasant sweetness. It is soft and honeyed, and has a long-lasting finish.