Making and drinking wine in Georgia dates back 8000 years that to say it’s part of the culture is underselling it. Wine is not just a matter of pride for this country of 4 million, but it also is a symbol of the locals’ hospitality, and a key component of religious and social life.
Drinking wine in Georgia is brought about by the simplest of celebrations, and a typical Georgian can drink up to three liters in one sitting. Such is the country’s affinity for the drink that to go here and not join a wine tour is to miss a significant part of what makes Georgia tick.
Which is why after a couple of days in Tbilisi, and before heading to Gudauri, we stop by Chateau Mukhrani in Mtskheta to learn more about the relationship between Georgia and the grapes.
Chateau Mukhrani was actually a castle constructed in 1873 by French architects, with the owner, Ivane Mukhranbatoni, using this to host numerous guests from Georgia’s elite. A tunnel connects the castle to an underground cellar, which today, contains around 60,000 barrels of wine all stored and cared for under optimal conditions.
The tour takes us to this cellar, with the guide explaining in great detail the painstaking process of planting the grapes, fermenting them, packaging them, and selling them. There are even a couple of ancient wine jars on display, showing just how far back the winemaking tradition goes back in Georgia.
After the tour, we partake in a wine tasting session, where a bottle of red wine, Muscat wine, and chacha (Georgian brandy made from the grape residue left after making wine). Along with these are platters of cheese and slices of churchkhela. The chacha in particular has a really strong alcohol content (around 40% at the minimum), and a single shot is enough to make me lightheaded for the rest of the morning.
This knocks me out for a good portion of the trip to the next destination.