Georgian Grape Varieties

Georgian grape names are nearly always descriptive of their appearance or flavour, reflecting the historic widespread viticulture of the country. Georgia has at least 500 native varieties, but most were almost wiped out during Soviet times, when consolidation and efficiency replaced the naturally diverse, regional and individualistic Georgian wine culture. Today, around 45 varieties are commercially produced, but the Georgian government is on a mission to save and reintroduce the old grapes. In summer 2014, the National Wine Agency started by giving over 7000 plants of ‘obscure’ varieties to growers around the region, and this had steadily increased over subsequent years.

White Grapes

Rkatsiteli

Rkatsiteli means “red stem”, and is the sturdy workhorse of white grapes in Georgia. It is cultivated throughout its native Kakheti, and in Kartli. Rkatsiteli is disease resistant, and ripens reliably. It is responsible for high-volume, good value whites, but also for…

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Mtsvane Kakhuri

This name means “green Kakheti,” and is usually called simply “Mtsvane” (Green). Mtsvane Kakhuri is one of six different Mtsvane that grow throughout Georgia, each with a different DNA fingerprint, and each named for the origin of its growth. Older than Rkatsiteli,…

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Goruli Mtsvane

Not to be confused with the Mtsvane Kakheti, this “Green Gori” has a variety of alternative names and synonyms. Commercially, however, it is labelled consistently as Goruli Mtsvane. The variety is mostly planted in the alluvial soils along the Mtkvari River including…

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Chinuri

Iv. Javakhishvili, an early 20th Century historian, argued that Chinuri’s name derives the old Georgian word “chini” (reddish-green), but commentators now contend it comes the Georgian word “chinebuli” meaning “excellent” or “the best” in this instance referring to the grapes superb appearance,…

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Khikhvi

The origins of Khikhvi’s name are unknown, but it grows widely in eastern Georgia, especially in Kakheti it originated. Most plantings are on the East-Southeast reaches of the province, on the right bank of the Alazani River, and there are some plantings…

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Kisi

Kisi is indigenous to Kakheti. Notwithstanding the high quality of wine it can produce, it became almost extinct by the 2000, a result of the Soviet preference for Rkatsiteli and the decline of Georgian vineyard land following the Soviet collapse. Further, it…

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Krakhuna

Krakhuna is indigenous to Imereti in western Georgia – the name means “crispy” in Imeretian dialect. It is grown in the central part of the province, around Sviri, Obcha and Dimi. Its bunches are of medium size, dense and conical, with thin-skinned…

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Tsitska

Grown throughout upper and central Imereti, Tsitska means “variety with small grapes from the village of Tsitske or Tstiskiuri.” (Iv. Javakhishvili ). By current standards, however, the grape is of medium size, with thick skins. The medium-sized, generally conical bunches tend to…

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Tsolikouri

The leading white grape of western Georgia, Tsolikouri originates in Kolkheti (ancient Colchis, the land of the Golden Fleece). The origins of its name are uncertain. The vine has medium-sized, conical bunches. The round, yellow-green berry itself is relatively thick-skinned, and thus…

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Red Grapes

Saperavi

Saperavi means “something to colour with,” or “to dye”. A very old variety, Saperavi is Georgia’s most widely planted red grape, with 10% of all plantings throughout the country (over 4000 ha). Saperavi can be dry, semi-sweet, full-on sweet, or fortified. Both…

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Tavkveri

This red grape, evocatively named “hammerhead,” for the flat top of the berry itself, is indigenous to Kartli but also grown in Kakheti. Tavkveri grows well in deep clay and sandy soils. Tavkveri can bud the end of March through middle April,…

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Shavkapito

Meaning “vine with a black cane,” Shavkapito originated in Kartli, in eastern Georgia. Its medium-sized, conical bunches typically have wings and moderate density. The round, medium-sized berries are round and dark blue. Shavkapito tends toward a bud-burst in the last third of…

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Chkhaveri

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…

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Ojaleshi

One of Georgia’s oldest vine varieties, Ojaleshi, means “growing on a tree” in the Megrelian dialect of Georgian (ja=tree). It was the dominant variety in the mountainous district of Samegrelo in north-western Georgia, it was trained as a maghlari vine up persimmon…

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Aleksandrouli

The indigenous “vine of Alexander,” Aleksandrouli has been nurtured for a long time in the mountainous hillsides of Racha-Lechkhumi in western Georgia. Long thought to be a completely distinct variety to Mujuretuli, they are now known to be separate varieties with a…

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Mujuretuli

Mujuretuli is, with Aleksandrouli, best known as forming the other half of the cult partnership that is Khvanchkara. Like its relative, it is largely cultivated along the Rioni River in western Georgia, in the Ambrolauri and Tsageri districts. Monovarietal plantings of Mujuretuli…

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Usakhelouri

Literally, the “grape with no name,” Usakhelouri is indigenous to western Georgia. Early 20th century historian Javakhishvili noted it was name for a village of the same name that was located on the right bank of the Lakanuri River in Lechkhumi. It…

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Aladasturi

Another vine named for its presumed origin (the village of Aladast, in Guria), Aladasturi vines were widespread throughout central Georgia but were largely wiped out by phylloxera. Originally trained to grow up trees, now it is mostly trained in a free-standing double-caned…

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Otskhanuri Sapere

Otskhanuri Sapere means “Otskhana’s colourful.” Otskhana is a village in western Georgia. One of the oldest Georgian varieties, Otskhanuri Sapere grows only in the western part of the country, mostly in Racha-Lechkhumi and Imereti. Otskhanuri Sapere has medium size leaves with three…

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Jani

The name means “powerful” and this high-quality grape was once the prize vine of Guria until plantings were lost to phylloxera. In the early 20th century, using a low training system and American rootstocks, farmers began to rebuild their vineyards, but these,…

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With thanks to:

Georgian Amplelography, N. Ketskhoveli et al.
Wine Grapes, Js Robinson, Harding, Vouillamoz
D. Maghradze
L. Uzunashvili
N. Tsertsvadze (2012)