In a country overflowing with native grape varieties, it’s inevitable that the origins of some may fade into obscurity. Khikhvi is one such grape – it grows widely in Eastern Georgia, thought to originate in Kakheti, but no-one knows where the name originates. Khikhvi vines produce a relatively small number of grapes. Though the harvest is small, these grapes have the useful ability to accumulate lots of sugar – making them perfect for sweet wines, especially when grown in the PDO Kardenakhi micro-zone in Kakheti. In this zone, the wines legally have to made in a fortified style
Khikhvi wine is made both in European and Qvevri styles, each having distinctive aroma profiles. The European-style ferment tends to give exotic aromas redolent of the resinous aroma of boxwood; the traditional Georigan Qvevri style tend to have a nose of ripe yellow fruit and apricot.
International grape varieties are typically known to be suitable for one or two types of wine. Think Pinot Noir – famous as a single varietal and in the production of sparkling wines. Georgian grapes are different. Typically, they are produced in a number of styles: dry, semi-sweet, sweet and so on – even red grapes. Khikhvi is no different. With soft acidity and moderate alcohol levels, it stands alone as a single varietal wine, or contributes high-tones to enhance a blend. It is a grape that deserves greater attention. As wine writer Miquel Hudin says:
‘[Khikhvi is] one of Georgia’s best white grapes. Yes, you may have heard of Rkatsiteli or the Mtsvanes or even Kisi but in my mind, Khikhvi is a truly unsung hero of this Caucasus nation.’