Think the birthplace of wine and it’s the rolling hills of France and the sloping Alps of Italy that likely come first to mind, but at the intersection of Europe and Asia lies a country where people have made wine for more than 8,000 years. It’s Georgia, full of dreamy landscapes, delicious food, and a rich wine history that should be on every oenophile seeking an off-the-beaten-path vacation’s must-visit list.
Start Your Georgian Wine Adventure in Tbilisi
Up-and-coming locales often take a bit of work to get to, and Georgia is no exception. The vast majority of flights arrive in the country’s capital city of Tbilisi. Check yourself into the trendy Hotel IOTA in Old Tbilisi for a couple days of city exploration and some time to get over jet lag.
Within a 15-minute walk from the hotel you’ll find something you want to visit: Metekhi Church, Narikala Fortress for history buffs, the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Art Museum of Georgia for art lovers, and Puskin Park for those who just want some fresh air.
And then there’s wine. By starting your Georgian wine adventure in Tbilisi you can get an introduction (or a refresher) on the country’s wine at the charming wine bar Vino Underground. Depending on the time of year you’re in country you’ll also want to plan on making your way to Vinotel, just a short 5-minute walk from the hotel. The restaurant has a lovely outdoor garden area for tasting wine and experiencing Georgian food.
Kakheti Wine Region
After a day or so in Tbilisi it’s time to venture outside of the city to Kakheti, Georgia’s eastern wine-making region. During the drive you’ll fall in love with the way the sunlight hits the rolling vineyards and while Kakheti is considered a day-trip from Tbilisi you’ll want to book a hotel or two in this area so you can make the most of your time. Here’s what not to miss while sipping and swirling.
Schuchmann Wines Château
Beautiful vineyard views, a cozy wine bar, and a luxurious hotel—you’ll find it hard to leave Schuchmann Wines Château. Producing roughly 2 million bottles of wine a year, Schuchmann has a variety of Georgian wines to try including two sparkling, oak-aged, as well as wine made in the traditional qvevri method.
Qvevri Wine Museum
By this point of your trip you’ve at least heard the word qvevri, even if you haven’t seen one. The clay vessels, buried underground, are what Georgians have used to ferment wine for centuries. Qvevri is a winemaking method recognized by the UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In the village of Napareuli you can visit the Qvevri Wine Museum, learn about the fermentation process, how the qvevris are made, and more about Georgia’s grapes and wine regions.
Tour the Alaverdi Monastery
Georgian Eastern Orthodox monks have made wine at the Alaverdi Monastery since the 11th Century. Book a wine tour in advance and see the marani (wine cellar), marvel at the monastery architecture, and purchase bottles of wine, labeled with “Since 1011.”
Papari Valley vineyard is straight out of a fairytale. Located up a sloping mountain, it’s not easy to get to, but if you can arrange a visit to this small winery in advance it will be one of the highlights of your trip. You’ll be stunned by the views from the rooftop, charmed by the husband, wife, and son who own and run Papari Valley, and the natural wines, using no artificial yeast, will forever change the way you think about wine.
Extending Your Georgian Wine Vacation
Georgia is one of those places that would take a lifetime to truly explore. Depending on the amount of time you have in the country a few other places to see are the David Gareja Monastery, the city of Sighnaghi, Chateau Mukhrani Winery, and Georgia’s western region, where you’ll find a less-developed wine region full of wine makers specializing in small production, all-natural wine.