The scenery, the aroma, the sun, the landscapes and of course... the wine. Nothing beats a relaxing wine holiday. Kick back, raise a glass and say cheers!
While Italy, France and Portugal are the go-to destinations for wine lovers in Europe visiting places like Tuscany, Bordeaux and Alentejo, Georgia is gaining popularity — and for good reason.
A gem located in the Caucasus along the crossroads of Asia and Europe, visitors are flocking in their droves to experience its delicious cuisine, fascinating historical sites and unique wine-making tradition.
Georgia has more than 8,000 years of experience producing wine, over 500 varieties of native grapes and has its own special method of making wine too. In fact, Georgia is the oldest wine region in the world thanks to its hot climate, protective slopes and fertile valleys.
They are so proud of their winemaking tradition that it’s considered part of Georgian national identity: they wear it as a badge of honour. Wine is enjoyed at every meal in Georgia and is considered an important, symbolic part of celebrations like weddings, feasts and banquets.
The ancient Georgian method of using kvevri (large egg-shaped vessels) dates back thousands of years and has been credited by UNESCO for its intangible cultural heritage. These enormous clay vessels, filled with wine, are buried underground for storage, ageing and fermentation.
This Georgian tradition is completely unique because the juice from pressed grapes, the grape skin itself, its stalks and pips are all mixed together inside the kvevri vessel before being sealed and buried for six months.
This mixture of skin, stalks and pips is called a “chacha” in Georgia. The unusual technique produces a special taste which makes Georgian wine taste so unique compared to its European neighbours.
If you’re a real wine enthusiast then you’re in luck, because there are loads of brilliant tours all throughout Georgia. We paid a visit to Shilda Winery in the Kakheti region and enjoyed a tour of their facilities, an afternoon of wine tasting plus an exciting cooking masterclass too.
Shilda Winery serves wine in the traditional qvevri style and also has more modern, continental options too. It has a rustic indoor restaurant which provides lunch and dinner after you’ve enjoyed the tour and cooking classes.
Chateau Mukhrani is another popular winery with locals and tourists alike, based in the Old Tbilisi district in the capital. It offers pretty views of white castles and leafy vineyards and gives visitors an insight into how the Georgian Royal Family lived centuries ago.
For a truly unique experience, you must check out the Khareba Wine Tunnel. Khareba is one of the biggest producers of wine in Georgia and the Wine Tunnel is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Here you can walk through the 7km tunnels, make traditional Georgian food like churchkhela sweets and shoti bread and you can see first-hand how they produce Georgian grappa. Industrial vineyards like these attract tourists from the United States all the way to Australia.
But for a closer, more intimate look at how Georgia continues its proud, 8000 year-old wine-making tradition, visit one of the many smaller, independent wineries dotted all throughout the Kakheti region.
Here you’ll get a more personal insight, as many vineyards are family-run and have been passed down from one generation to the next. Getting the opportunity to see up close and personal how they continue their heritage of winemaking is a must during any visit to Georgia.
This year Ryanair launched its first-ever routes from Georgia.
Brand new routes between Tbilisi and Milan Bergamo, Kutaisi and Marseille, and Kutaisi and Bologna are all available so you can kick start your adventure in the Caucasus at an affordable price.
English is widely spoken in Tbilisi, but outside the capital Georgian is the predominant language spoken by locals, so for the best experience we would recommend booking an official tour or hiring a local guide who speaks your language.
If you’re looking to book that exciting, off-the-beaten track wine holiday your best bet is through a local travel agency who will also help arrange transportation and accommodation.
Your Way 2 Georgia organise day trips to wineries in Tbilisi and Kakheti, while Travelling Roots are also experts in food and wine tours throughout Georgia.
Heading on a break to Tbilisi soon? Make sure to tag us in your photos using the hashtag #ryanairstories – you might be featured on Ryanair’s Instagram feed!