Uncorking Georgia’s Wine Culture on a Kakheti Wine Tour


One of the highlights of my recent trip to Georgia was getting to experience a Georgian wine tour in Georgia’s eastern region of Kakheti, where 70% of the country’s wine is produced.

I spent close to a month in Georgia, and during that time, I was told by every Georgian person I met that there is no better place to discover Georgian wine than Kakheti, which is home to 4,250 square miles of lush vineyards, and a winemaking history dating back 8,000 years!

I knew that in order to fully appreciate Georgian wine, a trip to Kakheti was essential, and so I signed up for a full-day excursion to the region to learn about Kakhetian traditional winemaking, amber wine, and the Georgian supra.

georgian amber wine
Trying amber wine in Tbilisi


In this post, I’m going to provide an honest review of the tour that I experienced.

I’m also going to share some advice on choosing the right Kakheti tour for you, including how to avoid hidden costs, lacklustre tour guides, and potential disappointments!

Sound good?

Then let’s get into it.


Kakheti Wine Tours – How to Find the Perfect Georgian Wine Tour


About Kakheti Wine


As I mentioned earlier, Kakheti produces 70% of Georgian wine, and it is has been making wine longer than anywhere else in the world, with archaeological findings showing that Georgian winemaking dates back to the Neolithic period!

Kakhetian traditional winemaking involves the use of large clay vessels called qvevri, in which the wines are aged with the skins, stems, and seeds all left intact.

Qvevri wine is unfiltered and unrefined, and with organic wines soaring in popularity as of late, Georgian winemaking techniques are becoming rather in vogue in the western world.

In fact, in 2013, UNESCO named the qvevri an Intangible Cultural Heritage!

You can learn more about Georgian winemaking in my article about Georgian amber wine, if you’re interested.

georgian qvevri
Qvevri in a wine cellar


Of course, not all Kakheti wine is produced in qvevri.

Most Georgian wine these days is produced in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks (the ‘classical’ European style), although any good Kakheti wine tour will focus on qvevri wine – it would be rude not to!

If you visit Kakheti, you’ll notice that most Kakheti wineries are small, family-owned joints that often started out by making wine for themselves and their neighbours!

The winemakers are all super down to earth, and wine tasting in Georgia is an informal affair that often takes place around the kitchen table (a far cry from prestigious wine cellars like Cricova in Moldova).

invitation to join the author's facebook group


Organised Tours vs Independent Travel


Exploring independently vs on a tour is always a hot debate, and while I personally love organised tours, I understand that they’re not for everyone.

For example, if you’re staying in Georgia for a while, you may want to take your time discovering Kakheti on your own.

The best way to do this is to base yourself in Sighnaghi and hire a car.

You could also visit Kakheti from Tbilisi using public transport, but getting to the more rural areas won’t be possible, and you’ll also be very restricted on time.

sighnaghi georgia
Sighnaghi from afar



If you want to explore Kakheti by yourself, there are some things to take into consideration:

Driving in Georgia

Georgians are known for being aggressive drivers, and the roads are not always the safest. Google Maps is also not always reliable in Georgia (my Georgian friends laughed at me when I mentioned it), and so driving in Georgia is certainly not without its pitfalls.

Drinking and driving in Georgia

Drinking and driving in Georgia is NOT permitted (the legal blood alcohol level is 0.03%, compared to 0.08 in the US and UK), and you might not have as much fun exploring Kakheti’s wineries if you’re the designated driver!

Communication

Not everybody in Georgia speaks English, especially in the smaller family wineries that you’ll find in Kakheti. Although you might get lucky with some of them, you’ll really benefit from having a local guide there to act as an interpreter.

Access to wineries

Small wineries usually require appointments in advance, and not all of them open for groups of 2 or 3. On an organised tour, the legwork is all done for you, and you don’t have to worry about not being able to visit you chosen wineries.


How to Choose a Kakheti Wine Tour (Premium vs Budget Tours)


There are countless tour providers online, all of which seem to offer the same experiences.

The tour that I did was around 150 EUR, but you will find tour operators on GetYourGuide offering Kakheti tours for less than 40 EUR – that’s a big difference!

However, the tour I went on was a premium tour, which offered a vastly different experience to the cheaper Kakheti tours out there.

To determine which is right for you, you may want to consider the following:

How big is the group going to be?

Eat This! Tours (the company I used) have a maximum group size of 7 participants, while cheaper tours sometimes have up to 30. Larger groups don’t offer as much of an intimate experience, and you’ll get less chance to interact with the winemakers.

What type of wineries are included?

Will you be visiting small, family-owned wineries where you can meet the winemakers themselves, or larger, commercial wineries? Both types are interesting, but cheaper tours tend to focus on commercial wineries.

georgian supra in a family home
Our tour involved a Georgian supra in a family home


Are there hidden costs?

The tour that I did included a large lunch and dinner, and the wine was unlimited. Budget tours don’t usually include food, and a ‘wine tasting’ could just mean one small glass of wine. When all the additional costs are taken into consideration, ‘budget’ tours may not be as affordable as they seem.

Is the tour guide an expert on wine?

I’ve been on a lot of tours in my time, and trust me when I say that not all tour guides are created equal. Our tour guide was a professional guide and sommelier, and was fiercely passionate about Georgian food and wine. Read the reviews of all tours carefully to make sure that your ‘tour guide’ is not just a glorified translator.

two girls eating dinner from a laden table
We had lunch and dinner included on our tour


Recommended Kakheti Wine Tour


After a bunch of my friends had been on a tour with Eat This! and raved about how it was the best tour they’d ever been on, I knew that I had to experience it for myself.

After meeting the owners at a travel conference (and discovering some of Tbilisi’s best wine bars with them!), I was delighted when they invited me along on one of their tours.

I joined their Kakheti Winter Wine Tour, which runs from November to March and includes a visit to three wineries, a supra in a local’s home, and a tour of Sighnaghi (the summer version of this tour is the Vines and Villages tour).

the author poses next to a multicoloured car in sighnaghi
Loving the photo ops in Sighnaghi


On the morning of the tour, our guide and driver, Levan, picked us all up from our hotels in Tbilisi.

Levan has been working as a professional tour guide for 11 years and is also a trained sommelier, which really showed as he told us all about Georgian wine and food on the drive!

After about an hour, we reached Giuaani Winery, in the village of Manavi (named after the local white grape variety Manavi Mtsvane).

Giuaani is a family-owned winery, restaurant, and hotel, and the largest of the wineries that we would visit.

giuaani winery
Giuaani Winery


After having a nosy around the gardens, we met with sommelier Giorgi, who showed us around the factory and explained the winemaking process to us.

Giuaani produces both qvevri and European-style wine, as well as chacha, Georgia’s national drink.

During our tour of the factory and cellar, we were even lucky enough to meet the winemaker, who let us try some wine right from the qvevri!

winemaker taking wine from a qvevri
The winemaker at Giuaani gave us wine straight from the qvevri
qvevri wine
Qvevri wine


Next, we headed to the restaurant for a ‘wine brunch,’ which turned out to be more of a wine feast!

Giorgi led the tasting of four different Georgian wines, as well as two types of chacha.

The wines that we tasted included a classical dry white wine (Manavi), an amber wine (Rkatsiteli), a dry red (Saperavi), and a semi-sweet white wine (Tsolikauri).

Each wine was paired with a different dish (or two!), all of which were incredible.

chicken with berries and salad
Baked chicken with berries and salad


Some of the foods we tried included beetroot with tkemali (plum sauce), pkhali (vegetable pâté with walnut paste), kubdari (bread stuffed with meat and local spices), and khashlama (boiled beef with garlic cream and celery puree).

Everything was absolutely delicious, and after a week eating hearty mountain food in Mestia, it was interesting to see a high-end take on traditional Georgian recipes.

pkhali
Pkhali
beetroot with tkemali
Beetroot with tkemali
khashlama
Khashlama


One thing I definitely appreciated was the amount of wine we were given.

After a tasting of each wine, Giorgi left the bottles on the table and allowed us to finish them off – he even opened a couple more when he saw how much we were enjoying ourselves!

georgian amber wine
Amber wine at Giuaani Winery


When we were absolutely fit to burst (and more than a little tipsy), we piled back into the car for our next stop – Sighnaghi.

I was really excited to visit Sighnaghi.

I’d been once before and fallen in love, so this second visit was much-welcomed!

sighnaghi georgia
Beautiful Sighnaghi


Known as the ‘City of Love,’ Sighnaghi is a picturesque town that overlooks the Alazani Valley and Greater Caucasus mountains.

Sighnaghi is one of the oldest towns in Georgia, as well as one of the smallest, and it’s home to stunning architecture, breathtaking views, and, naturally, a tonne of wineries.

Levan took us on a stroll through the town (I loved looking at all the handcrafted souvenirs and confectionary on sale) to Sighnaghi Wall, which we were able to climb up onto and admire the panoramic mountain views.

the author looking at the views from Sighnaghi Wall
Sighnaghi Wall
souvenirs in Sighnaghi
Souvenirs in Sighnaghi


We then headed to the striking World War II memorial, which depicts intricate battle scenes alongside ancient qvevri winemaking images – Georgians really do cherish their wine!

While we admired the memorial, Levan pointed out various parts of it, explaining what each scene represented.

world war 2 memorial sighnaghi
The World War II Memorial depicting winemaking


Next stop was Kerovani Winery, a small family business that produces organic natural wines in qvevri.

We met cousins Archil and Ilya, who gave us a a small tour of their wine cellar to see the qvevris, before our second wine tasting.

georgian wine cellar with qvevri
The wine cellar at Kerovani with qvevri


Here, we enjoyed generous measures of four wines.

First, a sparkling wine from the white Rkatsiteli grape. This was followed by Kesane, a dry white also made from Rkatsiteli, an unfiltered dry amber from Rkatsiteli, and a Saperavi dry red.

Naturally, the wine was accompanied with some pkhali (bread topped with various spreads, including pickled jonjoli, green beans with walnut paste, cabbage, and beetroot).

a table with empty wine glasses and some nibbles
The spread that awaited us at Kerovani
jonjoli
Bread topped with pickled jonjoli sprouts


Kerovani Winery is much smaller than Giuaani, and we were the only guests there, so we were able to stay for a while and chat with Archil and Ilya.

The two resident cats also made themselves quite at home on our laps!

a cat enjoying some affection
One of the adorable cats at Kerovani
kerovani winemakers
Winemakers Archil and Ilya


Our third and final winery was actually a family home, and when I say that Levan had saved the best until last, I’m not exaggerating!

Giuaani and Kerovani both provided us with amazing experiences, but as soon as we stepped through the garden gate of Burjanadzes’ Wine Cellar, we all knew that we were in for a treat.

mulled wine
A welcome glass of hot wine


Waiting for us in the garden of his family home was Bacho, a young Georgian who makes biodynamic wine in qvevri.

Alongside him were his mother, Maia, father, Zaza, and Darejan, his grandma!

After a quick introduction, Bacho began an impassioned speech about Georgian wine, inviting us to drink shots of chacha, glasses of mulled wine, and help ourselves to his mother’s homemade gozinaki (honey and walnut brittle).

georgian chacha
The mulled wine was followed with shots of chacha, of course!
bacho talking about wine
Bacho welcoming us into his home


After being invited into the kitchen by Maia, who wanted to show us how she prepared the gozinaki, we all piled into the family’s living room, where a dining table was caving under the weight of all the plates and glasses on top of it!

a dining table full of food
Our table, laden with food


Over the next two hours, we experienced a traditional Georgian supra, where Bacho guided us through many heartfelt and philosophical toasts as we quaffed copious amounts of amber wine and devoured some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.

The main dish was Mtsvadi, barbecued pork that had just been grilled by Zaza over a fire made from dried vines – I honestly don’t think I’ve ever tasted pork as good as this!

We stuffed our faces with khachapuri, roast chicken, stuffed eggplant, fried potatoes, and other Georgian delights, as Maia kept appearing with more food from the kitchen!

mtsvadi georgian pork
My favourite thing about Georgian mealtimes is how the plates just get stacked on top of one another!


The highlight of the night was when our hosts, who turned out to be a family of musicians, broke out into polyphonic singing, with Zaza giving an absolutely showstopping performance on the piano!

Sitting in this family’s living room, drinking their homemade wine, and listening to them sing is probably one of the most special travel moments I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something!

georgian supra
Bacho playing music at our supra
two men playing piano
Zaza on the piano!


More Information About Eat This! Tours


As I mentioned earlier, the company that I went on this tour with are called Eat This! Tours.

Eat This! is run by Tommo and Megsy, a British/Australian couple who have been living in Georgia for over 5 years. During that time, they have become Georgian food and wine experts, and if there’s anything they don’t know, the local tour guides they work with will easily fill in the gaps.

the owner of eat this making a toast
Tommo from Eat This! making a toast in Tbilisi


Eat This! focus on small, locally-owned wineries, and describe their tours as ‘premium’ yet ‘authentic.’

Their tours involve meeting the winemakers, tasting homemade food, and directly connecting with local families.

They balance wine tasting with sightseeing, and the tours are fully inclusive, meaning you can eat and drink as much as you like! I was a little sceptical about this last part, but true to their word, Eat This! provided more than I could physically consume.

They offer several different tours and types of tour:

  • A scheduled tour – Join a group that is already scheduled (see the schedule here).
  • On-demand –  Choose your own date (minimum 2 people). Once your date is confirmed, it will become a scheduled tour and get listed so others can join.
  • Private tour – You can book a private tour just for your group (min 2 people). These include a 10-20% surcharge.
  • Custom tours – Request a completely bespoke custom itinerary


Kakheti Tour Discount


Eat This! Tours have kindly given me a discount code that will get you 5% off all their tours.

All you have to do is enter the code jezebel5 at checkout and your discount will be applied. I will also earn a small commission if you do this (at no extra cost to you).

View all of their tours here.

If Eat This! premium tours are not within your budget, you can find cheaper options on GetYourGuide. As I mentioned earlier, do be sure to read the descriptions carefully to see what’s included and which wineries you’ll be going to.

elderly georgians at the dinner table singing
Our host family at the supra were wonderful!


A Georgian Wine Tour in Kakheti | Final Thoughts


As is probably evident, I really enjoyed my Kakheti wine tour with Eat This! Tours.

I’ve visited a lot of wineries in my time (I even volunteered at a winery in Albania!), and the ones I visited on this tour were among the best, not just in terms of their wine, but in terms of their hospitality and the overall experience that they provide.

However, what made the experience stand out even more was our knowledgeable guide, Levan, who showed us a side to Georgia that we couldn’t possible have experienced without him.

If I had to rate the experience out of 10, I’d give it a 10, and I don’t say that lightly!

If you have any questions at all about the tour I took, or which alternatives I’d recommend (or even just Georgia in general!), please reach out in the comments section and ask.


Further Reading


If you’re planning a trip to Georgia, you might find my other Georgia articles useful:

Visiting Mestia in Winter – A Complete Guide

Georgian Amber Wine, an 8,000 Year Old Tradition

Georgian Chacha – 8 Facts About Georgia’s National Drink

The Best Things to Do in Sighnaghi, Georgia’s City of Love

Until next time,

XOXO


If you liked this article and would like to support my work, please click the button above to donate a couple of bucks and buy me a coffee. The ad revenue that I receive on this website is minimal, so support from my readers enables me to keep creating content that you (hopefully!) love to read.


Disclaimer: I went on the tour as a guest of Eat This! Tours. All opinions are completely my own and I was not obliged to write a positive review of my experience. This page contains affiliate links. If you book an experience through my site, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

2 thoughts on “Uncorking Georgia’s Wine Culture on a Kakheti Wine Tour”

  1. Thanks so much for your wonderful review. Id love to get that picture of Tom if that’s ok? Such a great candid shot. Hope to see you in Georgia again sometime ☺️

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