Tbilisi, Capital of Georgia
Alaverdi Monastery with backdrop of Caucasus Mountains
8 - 18 September 2013
Georgia is a small country on the far-east edge of Europe, beyond Turkey and nestled between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. It is and always has been a ‘wine country’. There are some startling facts about Georgian wine. There are a purported 520 native grape varieties, for this is the area that the grape vine comes from and where wild vines were first domesticated. Considerable amounts of wine are still made in amphorae, locally called ‘qvevries’, that they bury in the ground as they have since Neolithic man first made wine here.
The tour starts in the capital, Tbilisi. (It also returns to Tblisi at the end of the tour, so there is plenty of time to explore here). It then moves to Kakheti in eastern Georgia, the main wine region. The visits start at Alaverdi Monastery and its winery beneath the towering Caucasus Mountains and follow with Marani-Telavi Wine Cellars, Schuchmann and Pheasant’s Tears. We’ll also taste wines from Orovela, G.W.S., Teliani Valley, Chateau Mere and top small producers.
Next, we head to western Georgia, where we meet local winemakers for tastings over wonderful feasts, including the hospitable Iago, the favourite visit of our tour last year. We also visit one of the last remaining qvevri makers who is keeping alive a tradition that dates back over the millennia. Also in this region, we visit one of the ancient cave cities.
We stay for 2 nights in Kutaisi, Georgia’s second city, with time to explore including its fabulous market. We then return to Tblisi where we are based for the last 2 nights. On our last day of touring, we visit the cathedral city of Msketa and the Roman site of Dzlisi with its superb mosaics of Bacchus. Lunch is at Chateau Mukrhani, the re-founded C19th royal estate that won 2 gold medals at the great Paris Exhibition and is which is making fine wine once again.
We will have tasted many very good wines and many too that are extraordinary, largely in a good way. The scale of production of some of these wines is minute. Production can be ultra-traditional with almost no human intervention between crushing and bottling. They are some of the world’s ultimate ‘natural wines’ and are highly sought after internationally, especially in the USA and Japan, as well as the UK. In our tastings we discover many the many grape varieties including the Viognier-like ‘Kisi’ and the ink-black ‘Saperavi’ and others that are only found in single villages in Georgia.
Along the way, we’ll see castles and medieval Orthodox churches that dot the spectacular Georgian landscape and visit some of the most interesting of these.
Tim Clarke spent the spring of 2011 writing a wine tourism strategy for Georgia. In the course of this, he became convinced that it could be an amazing destination for a wine tour. At its highest expression, Wine Tourism is a quest for a more meaningful wine experience at the source. Georgia has an ancient but very much living wine culture that is strange and uplifting, and is a direct connection to a past that is the source of everything in wine.
Please note: This tour has been revised since last year and is now one night and effectively a day and a half longer. The hotel in Tblisi is unchanged and following the opening of new hotels all the hotels in the countryside sections have been upgraded.