Georgia is widely celebrated for its qvevri wines. Making wine in qvevri is a tradition 8000 years in the making – and qvevri wines are having their deserved moment in the sun. But it would be a mistake to think that the only value in Georgian wine is as a traditional curio.
If anything, we see Georgian wine as at the forefront of a changing current perception of what makes wine ‘good’.
Even a decade ago, most wine drinkers wouldn’t have based their drinking choices on the ethos of the winemaker. But today, we’ve wised up to the fact that winemakers who value their country’s wine culture, who strive to make wines which represent the diversity of their region are often making the most interesting wines. And in Georgia, wine is an essential thread in the tapestry of the country’s culture.
In the past two decades, Georgia’s wine production focus has shifted from bulk intended for the Soviet market, back to artisan methods. In truth, these winemaking methods never really went away. Family wineries, producing wine for home consumption, are part of Georgia’s great wine tradition – winemakers are just bringing this ethos into the commercial mainstream.
Another modern wine trend which Georgia has unwittingly been at the forefront of is the trend for natural wine. Using qvevri, skin-contact fermentation and naturally occurring yeasts are principles at the core of the natural wine movement. In many ways Georgia is the spiritual home of natural wine.
Georgia is also the home of over 500 indigenous grapes with around 40 commonly used for commercial production. With climate change a real threat to the continuing success of grapes traditionally used in established wine regions, using indigenous grapes which are naturally suited to your vineyards gives Georgia’s winemakers the edge.