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 high quality examples, especially in skin-fermented Qvevri wines. In key sites Rkatsiteli produces charming and aromatic wines, as for example in the zones of Akhmeta-Ikalto, Kondoli, Tsinandali, Kisiskhevi, Vazisubani and Mukuzani.
Rkatsiteli’s cylindrical, medium-sized bunches contain medium-sized, oval berries; when dry-farmed, the grapes acquire a pinkish-yellow hue. Late-budding (the end of April) and late-maturing (early October, after Mtsvane Kakhuri), for vitis vinifera, Rkatsiteli is relatively resistant to downy mildew when grown in Kakheti; it is less resistant in the western, more humid regions. A hardy vine, it can withstand most winter frosts.
Rkatsiteli is produced through both traditional and European vinification methods, and is the principal grape in most Kakhetian white wines. Because Rkatsiteli has relatively quiet aromatics, it is often blended with 15-20 % Mtsvane Kakhuri, such as for the PDOs Gurjaani, Tsinandali, and Vazisubani to add high-toned aromatics and to soften the resulting wine. When vinified in the European style, Rkatsiteli offers subtle floral aromas with notes of citrus, quince, and apple. If vinified in Qvevri, the wine typically is more powerful, moderately tannic, with crisp acidity; the oxidative handling elicits flavours of honey, dried orange peel, spices, apricot and other stone fruits. Rkatsiteli is predominantly vinified in a dry style, but it is also a core grape variety in the PDO Kardenakhi, a fortified wine, and is suitable for all styles of wine. As of 2014, there were over 20,000 hectares of Rkatsiteli planted in Georgia.