“The Georgians are now rediscovering Georgia”, explained Patrick Honnef, CEO and winemaker at Chateau Mukhrani in Kartli wine region.

“In the Soviet era all winemaking was focused on Kakheti region to the east, so people associated the warm ripe style of Kakheti with Georgia itself – but no-one knew the Kartli style”, he said.

Kartli is Georgia’s historic wine region, south and west of capital Tbilisi.  Chateau Mukhrani is the pioneering premium winery here, with vineyards replanted in 2003, now with 102 hectares of indigenous Kartli grapes, Chinuri and Goruli Mtsvane (Green Gori) whites and Shavkapito and Tavkveri reds.

“Our wines have higher minerality and acidity than in Kakheti”, said Honnef.  “When we began, people said they were too French or European in style, but in fact they are true to Kartli’s terroir”.

German-born Honnef was working at Chateau d’Aiguilhe in Bordeaux when Mukhrani’s owners tempted him to Georgia in 2013.  “In Georgia they need help with micro-management, whereas in Bordeaux everything runs smoothly”, he said.  He believes Kartli is underrated and his herby zippy Goruli Mtsvane/Chinuri 2020 and herby spicy Shavkapito 2020, both beautifully made wines, show the restrained elegant style well.

Further east in Igoeti village in Shilda Kartli is the small artisanal winery Ori Marani.  An impressive newcomer, established in 2016, by French-born Bastien Warskotte and his Georgian wife Nina Gvantseladze (both pictured below).  Warskotte was raised in a Champagne vine grower’s family – and decided to focus in Georgia on premium sparkling wines and authentic still wines.

“We are here to make Georgian sparkling wine – not Champagne”, said Warskotte.  “I love the freedom here and easygoing positive mentality of Georgian people, but like the locals I too am rediscovering Kartli’s terroir”.

His focus at Ori Marani is creating “complex, textured, fresh, drinkable styles of sparkling and still wines” using a mix of traditional Georgian qvevri (underground clay fermenting vessels) and conventional barrels.

Warskotte’s fizz is extraordinary, considering he has just six vintages under his belt.  Amongst his best is traditional method Laora Rose NV and Giulia 2017 – and my favourite of his still cuvees is white Mariam 2022 and red Nita 2022.  He also makes Pet Nat (petillant naturel) which he describes as ‘easy to make, but difficult to manage’.

In Georgia’s most famous region, Kakheti (which has 44,000 out of the country’s 55,000 hectares of vines), the focus is very different.  Here in the warm east the grapes favoured by Soviets were the versatile Rkatsiteli white, known as Chardonnay of the Caucasus, and earthy spicy Saperavi red which still dominate vineyard plantings today.

Saperavi styles vary widely within Kakheti.  Some are matured in both qvevri and large oak to add complexity and supple tannins, others are given lengthy two years in French oak barriques resulting in a more European style.   Ripe dense fruity Saperavi found in Mukuzani PDO contrasts with drier styles from Napareuli PDO in Kakheti’s north west – and with the higher acidity and bright fruit character found in new PDO Khashmi, 40 km east of Tbilisi.

Kakhetian wineries are also reviving and experimenting with indigenous grapes like Kisi, Khikhvi (pictured in vineyard above) and Chitistvala whites (although the extremely wet 2023 harvest produced few healthy white grapes) – and mid-weight Jani and spicy peppery Adanasuri and Alexandrouli reds.

One of the most impressive new producers set up in 2017 in Kakheti is Tiko Estate, run by Levan Chychynadze (below) and his Argentinian wife Maria.  His traditionally made qvevri-aged Orange Kisi, Rkatsiteli and Khikhvi – and his soft rounded elegant ‘Wild Shavkapito’ and dense Saperavi are excellent examples from these grapes.

Giorgi Dakishvili (pictured below), one of the most celebrated Kakhetian winemakers of qvevri-style wines, acts as consultant for numerous wineries – but he has his own winery too.  For his Orgo Teleda wines he uses only old vines and the range is exceptionally good.

For natural wine lovers, my favourite is Casreli winery in Vachnadziani village set up in 2014 by five doctors, run by the charmingly erudite and talented Dr Misha Dolidze (pictured below).  His organic rare Chitistvala 2021, Kisi 2020 and dark cherry-fruited Saperavi 2020 are amongst his best – showing the distinctively lush ripe style of Kakheti region.


Kartli: LAORA ROSE NV Ori Marani

£34 Peckham Cellars; 266 Wines

Mix of qvevri and oak fermentation for the base wine; delightful pink with appley flavours, a zesty traditional method fizz with rich intensity and good length.


Kartli: GORULI MTSVANE/CHINURI 2021 Chateau Mukhrani

£21.99 Georgian Wine Guild;  £22 Wine of Georgia

Unoaked fresh zippy white with herby lemony zest, pear skin flavours and lingering finish.


Kakheti: RKATSITELI 2019 Archil’s Wine

£19.80 Georgian Wine Guild; Wine of Georgia

Peach, apricot and herby notes, quite textural, saline edge to finish from Tsinandali subzone made by Archil Utiashvili.

Kakheti: ORANGE KISI 2022 Tiko Estate ***STAR BUY***

£22.95 Butlers Wine Cellar; Dorset Wine; Hedonism; Astrum Wine Cellars

Elegant, apricot scented, cinnamon and honey flavours from one of my favourite Georgian grapes, Kisi.

Kakheti: CHITISTVALA 2021 Casreli

£18.99 Georgian Wine Society

Organic Chitistvala, Kisi and Rkatsiteli blend; dried fruits, smoky, zesty citrus fruits, firm on the palate from lengthy skin contact in qvevri.


Kartli: SHAVKAPITO 2020 Chateau Mukhrani

£21.99 Georgian Wine Guild; Wine of Georgia

Cranberry and cherry fruits, herby undertones, soft smooth rounded texture – shows potential for Shavkapito grape.


Kakheti: SAPERAVI 2021 Orgo Teleda  ***STAR BUY***

£24 L’Art du Vin; St Andrews Wine

From the ‘master of qvevri’, Giorgi Dakishvili’s superb ripe dark fruited, dense, savoury example is one of the best Georgian Saperavis.

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 18 November 2023

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