Sarah’s First Tour: Kakheti, Republic of Georgia. One for the Wino’s!!

    Republic of Georgia Wine Tasting Tour

Average cost of tour per person- 220 USD. (without air tickets and insurance).

This tour is perfect for those looking for a long weekend break over the Bank Holiday period. Will appeal to those with an interest in viticulture, viniculture, degustation, and Georgian traditions. But will equally make a great short break if you are wanting a little sunshine, relaxation, and warm hospitality, and something off the beaten track.

Easter break: 22nd April 2011 – 27th April 2011
May bank holiday: 29th April 2011 – 4th May 2011
Spring Bank holiday: 27th May 2011 – 1st June 2011
Summer Bank holiday: 26th August 2011 – 31st August 2011

This tour can be run all year round, so please feel free to request other dates, or to arrange tailor made or corporate visits, especially if you have a particular interest in mind, or wish to visit other wine producing regions of Georgia. We can also organize business visits for those looking to source Georgian wines for export.

    Wine Production in Georgia – A Little Bit of History.

Georgia is the oldest wine producing country in the world with over 8000 years of wine history. So it is no surprise that wine (‘ghvino’) remains an important part of everyday life for all Georgians. Archaeologists have found remnants of clay wine containers in Bronze-Age tombs, and many Georgians still store homemade wine in clay vessels called ‘kvevri’. These are then stored in the floor of a special room, or ‘marani’. Most families grow grapes on vines on verandas or in their ‘ezo’ (courtyard), and Georgia boasts over 500 grape varieties, although only 38 varieties are in common usage.

Today the most popular Georgian vines are: (red vines) Saperavi, Aleqsandrouli. Mujuretuli, and Ojaleshi. And white vines are Mtsvane (meaning Green), Rkatsiteli, and Tsolikouri. The taste is very different to the fruitier ‘new-world’ wines that most of us are used to, and wines are much drier, but equally delightful. Production is mainly organic, and traditional methods are still employed. Each region produces its own distinctive style, and this tour aims to guide you through the different wines of Kakheti region, as well as the traditional ‘supra’ (Georgian feast) where wine is drunk, often in vast quantities, and especially by men, led by the infamous ‘Tamada’ or toastmaster!

    The most famous of the wine regions – Kakheti

Kakheti is a definite must for any wine enthusiast. Located on the eastern side of Georgia, it is almost impossible to pass through this region without at least one invite to try some locally produced wine, and many visitors report being invited to try so many different wines that the region almost becomes a sublime blur! This is particularly true if you happen to visit between September and October during the grape harvest, when there are many festivities and celebrations taking place to mark the occasion. Every village has its own particular blend of grapes and methods of production, and you won’t be short on new wine experiences (or Kakhetian drinking songs!). The region is rich, not only in wine but also in history, and no tour would be complete without a visit to the Davit Gareji complex with its beautiful monasteries and castles, or to Sighnaghi – the city of love!

    Wine Tour: 6 days / 5 nights – all year round.
    Day 1

As soon as you land, we will meet and greet you, and escort you to your hotel in the centre of Tbilisi. The city (Tbilisi) is named after the warm (‘tbili’) sulphur springs in Old Town Tbilisi, and also applies to the warmth of Georgian hospitality. The evening is free for you take an evening stroll through the town and to enjoy the beauty of Tbilisi by night. If you look up towards Narikala Fortress, you may just catch a glimpse of Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) as she toasts you with her cup of wine in hand (but be warned. She also holds a dagger in her other hand, for those who misbehave!). If you need a night cap, then we suggest you try a bottle of ‘Tamada’ or ‘Old Tbilisi’, two very popular brands. Or for something stronger, try ‘chacha’, but be careful because this stuff is strong and you have a lot of wine tasting ahead of you over the next few days!!!

    Day 2

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, and a good night’s rest, we will meet you and show you around Tbilisi Open Air Ethnographic Museum. Here you will see houses and utensils typical of different regions in Georgia. You will soon see that wine and the ‘supra’ are very important parts of Georgian life, dating back many, many years. Next, we head to the Tbilgvhino Wine factory. The factory has been in operation since 1962 and produces several trade mark wines, the most popular being Tbilvino, exported to over 15 countries world wide. At the top end of the market are the special reserve wines: ‘Tsinandali’ aged in French oak barrels for 9 months, ‘Saperavi’, aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, and ‘Mukuzani’, aged in French barrels for 20 months and recent recipient of a silver medal at ‘The International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC)’ in London. ()

We then take an historical excursion to the ancient town of Mtskheta (Georgia’s spiritual heart, and the original Capital city of Georgia) – Jvari church, Svetitskhoveli Monastery with its beautiful stone carvings, and Samtavro Church. Tonight, we will enjoy a supper of traditional Georgian dishes such as lobiani, khajapuri, and khingali, as well as holding our own supra and wine tasting!

For those with an interest, we can arrange an evening at the opera, or theatre, or a chance to watch traditional Georgian music and dance.

    Day 3

Today we drive into wine country –Eastern Georgia – Kakheti. We will visit the town of Tsinandeli, home of Tsinandali wine (a white wine made since 1886 from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes, left to macerate within their skins for several weeks to achieve full tannin character. The wine then matures in oak barrels for three years, finally producing a straw-coloured wine with a fine, fruity bouquet. We will visit the Chavchavadze family estate, Tsinandali museum, and the old wine cellars. We will visit the Ikalto Academy, an ancient monastery where occupants learnt about astrology, pharmacology, and viticulture. Next, we visit Gremi, the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels, a former royal palace and once important trading centre on the silk road. We will end our day with a Kakhetian dinner before retiring to our hotel for the night.

    Day 4

Today we will visit Sighnaghi, the ‘city of love’ and an important wine centre. If you are here in October for the weekend, then you might just catch Sighnaghi’s big wine festival. Along with the areas of Gurdjaani and Tsiteltskaro, Sighnaghi is known for its ‘Anaga’ wine. Amber coloured, with a pleasant bouquet, this wine is reminiscent of port or Madeira and has a mildly honeyed-flavour to it. We will visit the city and castle, before enjoying a wine tasting in the ‘vineyards of the peasants’. Before dinner we will visit a wine factory, before retreating to our hotel in Sighnaghi.

    Day 5

Today we will remain in Sighnaghi, and there will be ample opportunity to visit ethnographic and historic monuments. In the evening we will have a farewell party in Kakheti, before returning to Tbilisi.

    Day 6

Your last day in Georgia is a free day and an opportunity to explore other aspects of Tbilisi life. You can visit a flee market under the Dry Bridge, (a great place to purchase wine souvenirs) or you can take a walk around Old Tbilisi. For those with an interest, we can organize a massage and swim at the sulphur baths in Old Town Tbilisi, or for the more adventurous, a bungee jump, paraglide, or white water rafting trip. In the evening we will transfer to the airport.

    Other Wine Information you May be Interested In!

Saperavi grape: produces deep, red-colour wines, with rich,
plumy flavours and crisp natural acidity. These wines are
able to keep for long periods of time, up to fifty years, can
produce high levels of alcohol, and are ideal for blending.
Produced in Kakheti, and can be purchased from Georgian
Wines and Spirits (www.gws.ge). Can also be used to
produce semi sweet wine, such as ‘Tamada Pirosmani’.

Alaverdi grape: produces semi-dry red wines, and also
white wines.

Alazani grape: used to produce semi-sweet red or white
wine.

Sareavi Dzelshavi grape: produces dry red wine.

Rkatsiteli Mtsvane grape: the most important grape variety
in Georgia. Produces dry white wine, high in acidity, and
capable of producing wines of fine character. May be
blended with saperavi, to produce wine similar in taste to
Barbera

Tvishi (Tsolikauri) grape: used to produce semi-sweet white
wine, and is a great desert wine.

Chacha: is similar in style to Italian Grappa.

Georgian cognac.

Gremi Brandy.

Georgian sparkling wine (‘champanska’): inexpensive and
produced throughout Georgia, ranges from dry to ultra
sweet.

    Kakheti Region

Tsinandali: white wine, strong tannin, pale atraw coloured,
fine fruity bouquet, is made from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane
grapes.

Gurdjaani: light gold wine, unique subtle but bitter taste.
Made from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes.

Rkatsiteli: rich and full bodied wines, with a dry finish.

Sameba: dry wine, thought to be the ‘grape of the
Georgian future’

Dry wines: Tibaani, Manavis Mtsvane, Vazisubani.

Sweet red wines: Kindzmarauli, Mukuzani.

Fortified wines: Kardanakhi (made from Rkatsiteli grapes)
and Anaga (made from Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi, and Mtsvane
grapes).

    Imereti Region

Here the wines are lighter, and more flowery than wines from Kakheti region. Vines are allowed to grow high on the trees and grapes are collected in a special basket (‘gideli’) which is then lowered down on a rope.

Red grape varietals: Aladasturi, Otskhanuri Sapere,
Odzhaleshi.

White grape varietals: Tsitska, Tsolikouri, Krakhuna.

Kvanchkara: a red wine made in Racha, and reported to
have been the favourite tipple of Stalin (hence the higher
price!).

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About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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