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Sunday, February 16, 2014

International wine tourism conference has its sights set on Georgia, Sakartvelo

by Terry Sullivan

Wine tourism is becoming more defined as people become aware of the vast number of wine regions throughout the world. Even with this increased perception amongst wine travelers, it is not uncommon to hear, “I didn’t know they made wine there.” I’ve heard this many times about the country Georgia, the site for the sixth International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC). The conference takes place in Tbilisi March 29th and 30th. Why would an international conference choose a country to host an event that many people do not even know where it is located?

The country Georgia is an obvious choice for a wine tourism conference. Many people who drink wine will at least occasionally think about the wine, the grapes, the producer, the vineyards, the wine region and perhaps the history of the region. Some may observe the wine in a glass and ponder, “Where was wine first made?” The answer lies in the country Georgia. Wine has been continuously produced in Georgia for 8,000 years. That is thousands of years before wines were produced in Greece, Italy and France. Grapes were cultivated in Georgia for thousands of years. The country has a most impressive wine history. What does it offer wine tourists?

It is hard to believe that wine tourists can become bored of visiting wineries and vineyards. See enough though, and you become familiar with yet another stainless steel tank and another oak barrel. How many Chardonnays from around the world do you want to taste? There is a certain degree of boredom that settles in with revisiting the same. Georgia is different. The country has over 500 grape varieties that will be new to most wine travelers. Wine enthusiasts may have had wines made from Saperavi and Rkatsiteli grapes, but what about Chinuri, Mtsvane, Kisi, Tsitska, Aleksandrouli and Otskhanuri Sapere just to name a few. Several wineries are growing vineyard libraries next to the winery. Visitors can walk amongst the hundreds of varietal grapes common to Georgia.

Georgia too has the stainless steel tanks and barrels; however, they also produce wine in qvevri, earthen vessels buried in the ground. Qvevri making and qvevri winemaking is an ancient art. One may argue that it is old technology and why go backward. However done correctly, qvevri-made wines can shine as brightly as oaked aged fine wines.

The wine making process of making wine in qvevri is regional in Georgia. The steps differ between the western and eastern parts of the country. Those wine travelers who enjoy bold tannic red wines will discover bold tannic white wines that were made in qvevri. Compared to the total wine production in Georgia, qvevri-made wines is very small. These amazing wines are not exported widely. Wine travel in Georgia may be a means to discover this wine treasure.

Georgia has also established several appellations. Each appellation name is also a name for a wine. These wines are also worthy of wine enthusiasts attention. Several wineries in Georgia offer lodging and more are planning to build lodging facilities. Georgians are very welcoming. Many believe that a visitor is a gift from God.

If you are interested in experiencing wine travel that you have not experience before, travel to Georgia. Its wine history, grape varieties, ancient winemaking techniques and welcoming people make this wine region at the crossroads of Europe and Asia a must visit location.

To learn more about wine travel in Georgia, visit our articles and blogs on the Wine Trail Traveler site.

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