Georgia is considered to be one of the first countries of wine-making. The stem of a Georgian word “gvino” (wine) is used in many European and Asian languages to express the same word. Archeologists discovered many antique ceramic things used for wine-making. In one of the pitchers grape stones were discovered dating back to AD 5000. In Kakheti up to 500 species of grapes can be identified enabling farmers to produce various types of wine.
Arrival - Tbilisi
Arrive in Tbilisi, Georgia – the country which is considered as a homeland of wine, with 8000-years-old unbroken wine making tradition and more than 500 indigenous varieties of grapes.
Meeting at the airport and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Tbilisi.
Visit the recent and the ancient capitals of Georgia and explore 8000-years-old unbroken wine making tradition
Discover the capital of Georgia – Tbilisi, explore its old district with paved streets and traditional houses with wooden balconies, at the bank of Mtkvari river. We visit the landmarks of the city: Metekhi church and its plateau which unfolds a superb view of the old city, Narikala Fortress - the ancient symbol of the city, the district of baths (Abanotubani) known for its Sulphur hot springs.
Departure to the village Chardakhi, visit local wine cellar of Georgian winemaker Iago, he explains us the history of Georgian wine and shows his methods of making organic wine. Iago owns two hectares of 60-years-old vineyards and produces 5000 bottles of white dried natural wines per year, all of them are fermented and aged in Qvevri (Georgian amphora). Chalk traditional and ecological methods are used in vineyards, grapes and wine making processes. He produces wine from one of the best Georgian varieties of grapes called “Chinuri” which gains special attention for its quality and special aroma. Degustation his wine with handmade cheese.
Departure for Mtskheta – the ancient capital of Iberia Kingdom, visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral ("Life-giving column") dated back to the 11th C. The placed under the tutelary of St Nino, evangelizer of Georgia in the 4th century. She came from Cappadocia holding famous vine cross to spread the Christianity in Georgia.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 2h, 75 km. Walking hours: around 4h. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Departure to the East, wine region - Kakheti
Departure to the East part of Georgia, Kakheti region via Gombori pass (1600m), known for its wine growing and an abundance of historical monuments. 68% of the country’s wine and 75% of grapes grow in Kakheti region.
Visit Ikalto monastery and academy complex founded in the 6th C, where one of the oldest wine schools was founded during the middle ages. Here we see the remnants of the once existing wine culture that had developed within the walls of this spectacular place. Visit Qvevri school-academy in Ikalto. Qvevri is a handmade clay vessel which Georgian people use for wine making, it is buried in the ground to ensure the temperature and the humidity levels required for the ideal fermentation of wine. We meet the Qvevri-maker who explains us and show the procedure of making Qvevri. Then we visit typical ethnographic house with an old wine cellar, get known more about Kakhetian method of winemaking which requires that the juice, seeds, grape skin, sprouts and branches are all fermented together in Qvevri, different from the European experience. The traditional method of winemaking in Georgia is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Degustation several types of family wine.
Continue to Alaverdi Cathedral (XI C) located at the foot of the greatest Caucasus Mountain with the panorama of Alazani valley. The monastery owns 11th-century wine cellar and wines which are produced by the monks. Here we see the connection of viniculture and the Christianity in Georgia from the ancient time. Then we visit modern wine factory which was awarded about 160 prizes in national and international competition. Here winemaking is based on the merging of traditional Kakhetian and European methods, history and innovations. Wine degustation with professional sommelier.
Arrive in Telavi - the capital and historical city of Kakheti.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 3h, 140 km. Overnight in Telavi.
Continue exploration of wine region
Visit the palace and estate of Tsinandali once belonged to the 19th-century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze, which is the 1st Georgian nobleman who produced and bottled Georgian wine according to the European methods in 1841. Visit the park, museum and its historical cellar, pride of the family dynasty. After museum enjoy with a glass of highly regarded, dry, white Tsinandali.
Continue to Kvareli. Discover 8 km long winery-tunnel, based on ancient traditions, it works towards preservation of unique wine culture and produces wine by using ancient methods along with newest technologies. Wine degustation.
Take the road to a small and charming town Sighnaghi, stroll through its cobbled streets and along the wall, admire the splendid panorama of Alazani Valley and the Greater Caucasus. It is possible to visit local wine cellar in order to organize culinary master classes by a very welcoming owner: bake traditional bread in a typical own called “Tone” and make “Churchkhela” (preparing with juice of grapes before it starts fermentation, flour and walnut).
In the evening back to Tbilisi. On the both sides of the road we can see the vineyards of indigenous grape varieties.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 4h, 220 km. Walking hours: around 2h. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Explore 465 varieties of Georgian vines and very specific wines of Ateni gorge
In the morning, departure to visit Jvari (Cross) monastery perched on a hill and overlooking the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers.
Continue to the village Jighaura, visit the scientific-research center of viniculture (conservatory of Georgian grape varieties of 465 local genotypes, from which about 40 varieties are exploited in wine production), meet the professional of the conservatory, discussion.
Take the road to Chateau Mukhrani - the prince’s estate governed by Bagrationi royal family which is based on the historical tradition of wine-making in Mukhrani region. Today the cellar is fully reconstructed, equipped with modern technology and stores more than 1000 barrels of wine at constant temperature of 16C. Château Mukhrani makes wine from grapes harvested in its own vineyards, combining modern and traditional technologies. Discover Georgian royal family history and degustation of premium quality Mukhrani wines.
Departure to the central part of Georgia, Shida Kartli region. Visit an ancient rock-hewn town Uplistsikhe, where was founded 5,000-year-old grape seeds - proof that Georgia is the oldest wine country.
Continue to one of the significant areas of winemaking - Ateni gorge, a beautiful gorge located at the valley of Tana river, with small exotic villages, beautiful nature, cool and pine forested areas. The area is unique with its winemaking tradition and specific wine. Here we meet an ex-minister of Georgian culture and local winemaker, who explains us the traditional methods of making very specific natural wine – Atenuri and Tavkveri. The winemaker owns the guesthouse and is proud to preserve and develop the centuries-old agricultural and cultural traditions of Ateni region.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 3h, 155 km. Walking hours: around 2h. Overnight in Ateni.
Discover mountainous wine region Ratcha and its very special wine Khvanchkara
In the morning, take a long road to Ratcha region via Rikoti pass (995 m) and then via Nakerala Pass (1218 m), on the way enjoy the views of Tkbuli reservoir and Shaori Lake. Ratcha is the mountain region which is known for its specific wine due to its terrain.
Visit an industrial wine cellar which produces famous and very pleasant wine Khvanchkara – semi-sweet red wine made out of Aleksandrouli and Mujuretuli grape varieties cultivated in this region. It is characterized by a ruby color, distinctive harmonious, delicious taste, with specific fruity tints and varietal aroma. Wine degustation.
Visit the 10th century church, Nikortminta, a pearl of Georgian architecture rich with the frescoes and fascinating ornaments of vines and grapes. Visit Barakoni Church – XVIII C.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 4h, 205 km. Overnight in Ambrolauri.
Admire aroma of Imeretian wines
Departure for Kutaisi, the second city of Georgia. Short visits of the UNESCO sites: Gelati monastery, which is the illustration of the Georgian culture since X C until the XVIII C, the masterpiece of the Golden Age of medieval Georgia, the center of science and education during that period. Visit recently renovated Bagrati cathedral – the symbol of the city, dated back to the X century.
This time we discover wines of Imereti region. The most popular grape varieties in the region are: Tsolikouri, Tsitska, Krakhuna, Otskhanuri Sapere, Aladasturi, etc. Unlike the traditional Kakhetian wine, Imeretian winemakers use less Chacha (grape pomace) for making white wines while red wines are usually fully fermented on Chacha technology. We can find different layout style of vineyards in Imereti, called vertical.
We leave towards Nakhshirgele village to meet local winemaker Ramaz, who welcomes us in his cellar built next to the vineyard. He shows us around his vineyard and tastes us his natural white and red wines. We also taste an extraordinary strong drink Chacha, with green color, produced at a base of cannabis.
We continue our route to Obcha village to meet young winemaker women Baia. She tells us a whole story of winemaking process and let us taste the best of her wines including Baia’s wine, Otskhanuri Saphere - more acidic and less sweet like the majority of Imeretian wines, due to the humidity of the region.
In the evening, arrive in Borjomi, remarkable with its natural mineral springs.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 5h, 235 km. Walking hours: around 1 h. Overnight in Borjomi.
Very authentic Meskhetian wines and Vardzia cave town
Departure to Akhaltsikhe - Javakheti region, the South part of the country.
Visit Nateladze’s family wine cellar, meet young winemaker who produces wine from the grapes’ trees that are more than 1-2 hundred years old. Meskhuri Wines are making in qvevri with traditional methods, are very rare and harmonic, with low alcohol and well-balanced acidity, most sommeliers say that these are the most elegant and well-balanced wines. Tasting of several natural and extremely rare kinds of Meskhetian wine.
Continue to Tchatchkari village, we need to move on foot to see 4-centuries-old vine which is still alive and productive. On the way we pass the terraces of vineyards typical of the region.
Discover a splendid troglodyte town of Vardzia dating from the 12th century (which requires a good physical shape to move into the caves ad narrow tunnels).
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 2h30, 120 km Walking hours: around 2-3h. Overnight in Vardzia.
Region of the 1st wild vine in the world
A long road goes to Bolnisi via Tsalka and passes the alpine lake Paravani, enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the Lesser Caucasus mountains.
Arrive in Bolnisi – a micro-zone of typical wine located in Kvemo Kartli region. This region is very significant for wine producing history in Georgia. The archeologic excavations at the hill of Imiri (dated back to VI-V CC AD) proof that this is the place where the 1st wild vine was planted and made wine from its grapes, for the first time in the world (Early Neolithic period).
Visit local winemaker’s cellar in Bolnisi (village Khatisopheli), which is renovated by three sisters to continue their family tradition of winemaking, the hosts will introduce us the history of the family and the region, the wine culture that began 8,000 years ago. Take taste of her natural wine and discuss about the specification of the wine. The varieties characteristic for this zone and local ancient viticulture traditions creates the unique, organoleptic qualities of Bolnuri wine. “Bolnisi” is recently added to the list of Georgian appellation wines among 19 registered names ones.
It is possible to see Bolnisis Sioni Church dated back to V C, known for the earliest Georgian inscriptions written in Georgian Asomtavruli script.
Road to Tbilisi.
Transfer: Private vehicle, around 6h, 310 km Overnight in Tbilisi.