A little history won’t hurt you… Discover Georgian wine.

The roots of Georgian viticulture have been traced back by archeology to when people of the South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was nourished by experience, and from 6000 BC inhabitants of the current Georgia were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, kvevris, in which to store their wine ready for serving at ground temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some may remain entombed for up to 50 years.

Wine vessels of every shape, size and design have been the crucial part of pottery in Georgia for millennia. Ancient artifacts attest to the high skill of local craftsmen. Among vessels, the most ubiquitous and unique to Georgian wine-making culture are probably the Kvevris, very large earthenware vessels with an inside coat of beeswax. Not only kvevris were used to ferment grape juice and to store up wine, but also chapi and satskhao; others yet were used for drinking, such as khelada, doki, sura, chinchila, deda-khelada, dzhami and marani.

The continuous importance of winemaking and drinking in Georgian culture is also visible in various antique works of art. Many of the unearthed silver, gold and bronze artifacts of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC bear chased imprints of the vine, grape clusters and leaves. The State Museum of Georgia has on display a cup of high-carat gold set with gems, an ornamented silver pitcher and some other artifacts dated to the 2nd millennium BC. From classical Antiquity, Georgian museums display a cameo depicting Bacchus, and numerous sarcophagi with wine pitchers and ornamented wine cups found in ancient tombs.

From the 4th century AD, wine has gained further importance in Georgian culture due to Christianisation of the country. According to tradition, Saint Nino, who preached Christianity in Kartli, bore a cross made from vine wood. For centuries, Georgians drank, and in some areas still drink, their wine from horns (called kantsi in Georgian) and skins from their herd animals. The horns were cleaned, boiled and polished, creating a unique and durable drinking vessel.

During Soviet times wines produced in Georgia were very popular. In comparison with other wines from Moldavia and Crimea that were available on the Soviet market Georgian wines had been preferable for Soviets. In 1950 vineyards in Georgia occupied 143,000 acres but in 1985 already 316,000 acres due to increasing demand. In 1985 wine production was 881,000 tons. During Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, many old Georgian vineyards were cut off.

Georgian wine has been a contentious issue in recent relationships with Russia. Political tensions with Russia have contributed to the 2006 Russian embargo of Georgian wine, Russia claimed Georgia produced counterfeit wine. It was an “official” reason, but instability of economic relations with Russia is well known, as they use the economic ties for political purposes. Counterfeiting problems stem from mislabeling by foreign producers and falsified “Georgian Wine” labels on wines produced outside of Georgia and imported into Russia under the auspices of being Georgian produced. Some winemakers in Georgia have also been known to import grapes and produce “falsified” Georgian Wine, leading then defense minister Irakli Okruashvili to note in 2006 that “[He thought] several wineries that are still producing fake wine in Gori should be closed”. The shipment of counterfeit wine has been primarily channeled through Russian managed customs checkpoints in Russian occupied Georgian territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where no inspection and regulation occurs.

We are near Ozurgeti, a town worth visiting!

Ozurgeti municipality is located in the Guria region. The traces of human life here start from ancient times. Settlements and workshops of the Bronze Age were discovered in this area, such as the Vakijvari workshop and the Shemokmedi settlement. Ozurgeti is first mentioned in the XVI century in historical sources. It was a culturally and economically developed region in the Middle Ages, that is confirmed by many temples and fortresses located in the municipality. Ozurgeti was an important trading city in the late feudal period and the residence of the Guria princes. The coins treasure is found here, 270 silver coins, which are known as Ozurgeti treasures. Ozurgeti is described by Italian missionaries – Don Cristoforo de Castell, Antonio Jardina, Clemento Galliano, who were doing missionary work in Guria in 1628-1640. Ozurgeti became a separate region in 1930. In 1934 it was named the Makharadze Region in honor of the revolutionary Filipp Makharadze and in 1990 it was renamed in Ozurgeti. Since 2006 it has the status of municipality. Nowadays, there is a theatre, 3 museums, libraries and other cultural-educational institutions. Agriculture is developed in the municipality. The leading fields are: citriculture, nut, corn and tea-growing. The food industry also plays an important role there. There are small enterprises of different profiles in Ozurgeti. Tourist infrastructure is also developing, especially in the Black Sea coast. Gomismta is also an important and popular tourist destination. The cultural and historical monuments in the region such as: the churches of Shemokmedi, Jumati, Achi and Likhauri, Likhauri fortress, Askani fortress, Vashnari settlement etc. get a lot of attention and attract a lot of travel lovers.

Geography and Climate

Ozurgeti municipality is located in Guria region, in the valleys of rivers Natanebi and Supsa. Its administrative center is the Ozurgeti city. The municipality consists of 29 territorial units which are: Ozurgeti city, Laituri, Naruja, Nasakurali, Ureki, Askana, Baileti, Bakhvi, Bokhvauri gurianta, Dvabzu, Vakijvari, Tkhilnari, Konchkati, Likhauri, Makvaneti, Melekeduri, Meria, Mtispiri, Nagomari, Natanebi, Ozurgeti Village, Silauri, Shemokmedi, Tskhemliskhidi, Dzimiti, Chanieti, Jumati, Shroma. Ozurgeti is bordered by Chokhatauri municipality on the east, Lanchkhuti on the north, Adjara on the south and Black Sea on the west. The territory of the municipality is grooved by rivers and valleys. The rivers Supsa and Natanebi flows in Ozurgeti. The highest place in the district is Sakornia Mountain (2756 m). Minerals found in the municipality are: concrete clay, oil, kaolin, ochre, cement, red iron, mineral waters and others. Ozurgeti is distinguished by its diverse flora and fauna, with a large part of the area covered by forests. In the district there are: chestnut, hornbeam, alder tree, beech, cherry laurel and others. In the forests there are: bears, wolves, lynx, roe, rabbits, martens and more. The following birds are common there: kite, vulture, mistle thrush, wild duck, chaffinch, robin redbreast, etc. The migratory birds also come in spring: canary, quail, hoopoe, turtledove and others. Ozurgeti municipality has a humid subtropical climate. The average annual temperature varies from 14.5 °C to -4 °C. The average temperature in January is + 5 °C to -5 °C and in August is + 23 °C to + 13 °C.

What to see

Ozurgeti municipality is distinguished by its beautiful nature and interesting cultural monuments. Forests, mountains and amazing views are perfect for nature lovers. Gomismta is very popular which creates an unforgettable experience with the endless sea of clouds, spruce and beautiful surroundings. One of the outstanding places is Chinchao Lake, surrounded by alpine meadow and with beautiful views. There are also many important cultural and historical monuments in Ozurgeti. Shemokmedi Monastery should be noted, which consists of two temples and is significant with colorful revetment, painting and decor, Archangel Church of Likhauri with beautiful and delicate carvings, Achi Church, Jumati Church, Askani Fortress, Likhauri Fortress, historic, ancient fortress town of Shukhuti and more. In the region 3 museums are functioning: Ozurgeti historic museum, Ekvtime Takaishvili Guria Archeological Museum-Reserve and Dvabzu Ethnographic Museum. Ozurgeti historical museum preserves more than 6000 exhibits, which includes the period from the IX millennium BC to the present. At the Archaeological Museum-Reserve you will find: the V-VIII centuries remains of Gurianta-Vashnari, fragments of the monastery of the second half of VI century discovered by archaeological excavations, remains of fortifications, basilica and martyrium, early ancient and Hellenistic settlements found in the area of settlement, clay sarcophagi, qvevri-tombs, bath. There are mountain and seaside resorts in the municipality where you can enjoy comfortable and pleasant holidays.

What is Chkhaveri, anyway?

A western Georgian variety, Chkhaveri is mostly planted near the Black Sea coast in Adjara and especially in Guria, but also in Imereti. Chkhaveri originally was a “maghlari” wine, a vine trained to grow up trees. This pinkish-violet variety is sensitive to site and needs careful attention to give quality fruit. It grows particularly well on cooler, south-facing hillsides with limestone soils. Given the relative warmth of the climate, frost is rarely an issue where Chkhaveri is cultivated. The bunches are small and thin, but can be dense with one wing; yields are small.

Chkhaveri ripens quite late (in Guria, in the second half of November) and care must be taken to prevent botrytis. It can reach very high sugar levels while retaining fresh, brisk acidity, allowing for remarkable versatility. Alcohol levels are always moderate. Regardless of whether the wine is still or sparkling, dry or semi-sweet, Chkhaveri wines are vibrant pink, fresh flavors of red berries, cherries, forest fruits and baking spices. The naturally semi-sweet rosés, produced classically in tank and intended for early consumption are delightful and refreshing. Produced as a light red in Qvevri, the fruits are more subdued but the spiciness offers lift and complexity. It is a specialty of Guria, grown particularly in Ozurgeti and Chokhatouri, and also grows well in Imereti and Adjara.