Making Wine in Georgia

Please note that the contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps. 

I mentioned way too long ago that nearly every home makes its own wine. Not quite as long ago (October), I partook of the process of making wine.  

As you may remember from my way too long ago post, Georgia has a claim to the invention of wine. Apparently, this is where the Greeks got the science. In fact the Greeks were so impressed that the region and people were named for the earth by the ancient Greeks (geo- being the prefix for earth). Now at the same time as the ancient Greeks, western Georgia had its own kingdom: Kolchis, which is where Medea was from, Prometheus was chained, and Jason went searching for a certain golden fleece. But it is eastern Georgia, specifically the Kakheti region, that is really known for wine.

 Many bags of grapes ready for stomping. Not pictured here is the night time drive to acquire them in the rain and mud that almost sent our van careening into brambles and ditches.

Many bags of grapes ready for stomping. Not pictured here is the night time drive to acquire them in the rain and mud that almost sent our van careening into brambles and ditches.

 Holding onto the trellis for dear life while my cousins look on dubiously.

Holding onto the trellis for dear life while my cousins look on dubiously.

First, you need grapes. Most folks grow their own grapes. Even in Gori, one of Georgia’s larger cities, most homes grow grapes that get converted into wine, but those grapes aren’t necessarily enough. Fortunately, there are enough local farmers that grow extra for you to buy.

Once you have all those grapes, then what? Growing up I read about wine presses (and cider presses used with apples and pears by American pioneers). Nope, not here. The grapes get dumped into a huge, slanted troth. Where I have seen a concrete one built into the floor of a house, the one we used was carved out of a single tree, much like a dugout canoe. Toss in the grapes, strap on your rubber boots, and start stomping. Just don’t slip! You use a shovel or paddle to help push the mash together for better stomping, and pick out the bits and bobs, like stems, as needed. The grape juice that comes out is pretty awesome, even if you might have to dust out a twig or leaf. It’s a shame that the next step is sealing it all up in underground tuns to ferment.

 My host dad, Gocha, helping concentrate the mash so we can squeeze the last bits of juice out of it.

My host dad, Gocha, helping concentrate the mash so we can squeeze the last bits of juice out of it.

Now, I’m no wine connoisseur. In fact, I generally don’t like it at all. I'm one of those strange guys that just doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. So consider that as I give my opinion. 

Everyone is naturally very prideful of their homemade wine. Generally, to them it is the best wine, but I’m just not a fan. High alcohol content, little taste. That said, the two best wines I’ve ever tasted have come from here (specifically the previously mentioned Kakheti region). One was a black wine sold in a re-used soda bottle at the Telavi bazaar. The other was a professionally bottled red. So, the next time you go shopping for wine, see if you can find a bottle from the Republic of Georgia.

P.S. When you enter the country they also give you a small bottle of wine. Yeah, it means that much to Georgia.