The country of Georgia is famous for its incredible food and wine. So when in Tbilisi, why not book a Kakheti wine tasting tour to experience Georgian wine culture?!
Chris and I officially moved to Tbilisi, Georgia (yes, the COUNTRY not the state) just over a month ago, and the first item on our bucket list was embarking on a Kakheti wine tour day trip to learn about Georgia’s famous wines.
I’m a big fan of wine myself, and I hated not knowing anything about the local wines I was buying and ordering. Not to mention, the night before our wine tasting trip, Chris and I attended a local pub quiz trivia night with a full category on Georgian wine! Thankfully we had Tommo and Megsy from Food Fun Travel on our team, and they’re pretty much experts.
Because we’ve been pretty much clueless these last few weeks, it was super important for both Chris and I to embark on a little day trip to the wine region of Kakheti and learn a little more about the fantastic wine we’ve been drinking!
Georgian Wine is Amazing (and Affordable!)
Our first introduction to Georgian wine was at immigration when we were each handed a small bottle of Sapperavi red with a welcome message written on the label! Seriously, this was the best welcome to any country I’ve ever had, even if it was at 1 am!
Next, our Airbnb host gave us a wonderful free bottle of red wine with our stay, as did our landlord when we moved in. Wow, these locals are serious about their wine culture!
Not only are there wine shops on every corner in Tbilisi, but you can also order house wine by the liter in most restaurants. This house wine is incredibly cheap too, with a full liter costing around $3-5 USD!
I’ve really had to up my drinking game here, especially with people like Tommo who boast that you’re not a real man in Georgia unless you can drink three liters of wine at a Georgian supra feast! Thankfully I’m not a man so the pressure is off.
What Makes Georgian Wine so Special?
If you’ve ever been wine tasting in a vineyard before, you’ll probably know that most wine is made in giant tanks. However, Georgia has its own traditional method!
While some Georgian wines (especially sweeter wines) are made using the “European method” you’ll find at most wineries, Georgia is famous for its qveveri winemaking. Qveveris are giant clay pots used for turning grapes into wine and are buried in the ground. The shape of the qveveri creates a fermentation process, and the end result is a nice dry red or amber wine!
The qveveri is what allows many restaurants and families to make their own wine in the backyard, and why Georgian wine tasting is such a unique experience!
First Stop: Shoti Bread and Mountain Cheese
After meeting our guide Kakha, the first stop on our wine tasting adventure was to a small hole-in-the-wall shop on the side of the highway. As we entered into this tiny home, we watched as a woman placed dough on the sides of a well-shaped oven, creating Georgian shoti bread.
After purchasing a fresh warm loaf, we were given samples of two different types of Georgian mountain cheese. One was a bit mild and tasted like semi-firm goat cheese, while the other was much stronger and saltier with a very pungent smell. Kakha instructed the two of us to choose our favorite to go with the bread, and of course, we chose the stronger of the two.
After Kakha purchased the cheese, the three of us and our local driver stood around a table outside eating fresh (scalding!) bread with cold mountain cheese. The salty cheese paired perfectly with the shoti, and the experience was made even better by a particularly friendly neighborhood cat who came over to say hello!
Usually, the cats in Tbilisi all run away from me, so this was really the cherry on top of a perfect breakfast.
A Quick Tour of Sighnaghi
Our first winery was located in the quaint town of Sighnaghi, nestled in the mountains overlooking the Alazani valley. Even in the winter, this town was beautiful, with historic buildings, and cobblestone streets covered in a layer of snow. Chris and I could’ve been walking around Lake Como in Italy if it weren’t for the Soviet-era cars zooming through the tiny cobblestone streets.
Here Kakha showed us the Heroes Monument of Sighnaghi and even took us to walk along the city wall! The view from the wall was incredible, and I really enjoyed taking the time out of our wine tasting to have a look. That said, I had a really hard time walking along the wall in my high-heeled boots because the entire thing was covered in snow and ice! Whoopsies.
I was definitely “that girl” with the impractical shoes, but in my defense, I only have two pairs of winter shoes with me right now, and I figured that I should look nice for wine tasting! I guess next time I’ll be wearing my tennis shoes.
Overall, Sighnaghi is such a cute town, and I really want to take a trip back there this spring to enjoy it in the warm weather!
Okro’s Winery: Red, Amber, and Chacha
Our first stop on the Kakheti wine tasting tour was at Okro’s Winery. This winery is actually home to the highest balcony in all of Sighnaghi, so Chris and I enjoyed the incredible views of the town while our wine tasting was prepared!
At Okro’s all of their wines are completely organic and made in a traditional qveveri with no added sulfur. The winery is also family-run, and started in the owner’s basement!
At Okro’s we tried two different types of amber wine, a Saperavi red, and a shot of chacha.
Georgian Amber Wine
Amber wine, otherwise known as “orange wine” is made from white wine grapes, however, the skin is not removed as you would when you make traditional white wine. The result is an amber-colored wine with a slightly sour taste.
My first time ever trying Amber wine was at Okro’s winery, and I had the opportunity to try their Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli versions. The first was very strong and sour, but the second was much lighter with only a slightly sour taste, which was a bit more to my liking!
Georgian Saperavi Red Wine
Our next wine was a Saperavi red, which is made with Georgian Saperavi grapes. Saperavi grapes are a bit unique as far as red wine goes because they have both red skin and red flesh. Most red or purple grapes actually have green flesh inside, but Saperavi is red the whole way through.
At Okro’s we had the opportunity to try their Saperavi Budeshuri red wine made in a qveveri. As a red wine girl, I really enjoyed this one!
When I first moved to Tbilisi I was a bit disappointed to discover that in Georgia “chacha” does not refer to the Latin dance, but to the Georgian clear pomace brandy made with grape residue after making wine. “Chacha” literally means “leftovers” because that’s quite literally what it is: winemaking leftovers.
But when it comes to taste, I would compare chacha in color and taste to vodka (although don’t tell any Georgians I said that!). Granted, I’m not really one who sips hard liquor for fun, so don’t trust my pallet.
Here at Okro’s we finished up the wine tasting with one shot of chacha, which was nice and strong, and left us in good spirits (get it…?) as we headed to our next location!
A Backyard Supra with Homemade Wine
For our next stop, we drove from the mountains into the valley below and eventually made our way to a local home for lunch. The owner (who’s name I forgot to write down!) spoke absolutely no English, but was incredibly welcoming and immediately ushered us into his basement wine cellar.
He showed us (with translation help from Kakha), how he makes his own wine with qveveris and urged us to try a few glasses of his homemade white and red. Of course, this eventually led to a few shots of chacha. Thankfully, I was able to stop at two so I could actually make it to lunch!
Before lunch, the owner led us to his backyard where he showed off his small vineyard as well as the new car he bought from the US! Meanwhile, another one of his family members was roasting pork on skewers over an open fire. Yum!
Our Kakheti Supra Lunch
Eventually, we all sat around a table covered with Georgian staples like mountain cheese, eggplant with walnut paste, freshly roasted pork, tomato and cucumber, stewed beans, fresh puri bread, and of course, jugs of homemade red wine. Every few minutes we toasted to friends, family, marriage, and more, following the traditional Georgian supra fashion.
After lunch was finished our bellies were full and our teeth were died completely red, we headed onto the next destination. But not before the owner came running over to give us a bottle of his homemade red wine as a gift to drink at our US wedding this summer!
Both Chris and I were shocked and really thankful for the generous gift! We’ve already got it safely tucked away to bring home this summer. Let’s hope I don’t spill any on my white dress!
Overall, I really loved this stop of the trip for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, the owner is amazing and I loved seeing how he made his wine from home. But really, I just love getting off the beaten path and experiencing a home-cooked Georgian meal with a few friendly Georgians who are excited to share their culture.
Wine in a Cold War Bomb Shelter
After lunch, we drove through the Alazani valley towards the mountains for our final stop: Khareba Winery. This winery was the most touristy of all the places we visited, however, it’s unique enough for a look due to the fact that the winery is located in an old fallout shelter from the Cold War!
The giant tunnel is lined with casks of wine and stays at the perfect storage temperature year-round, no matter what the weather is like outside.
Here we had a tour from a young Georgian guy in his early 20’s who was eager to show us the small museum of winemaking equipment. While we had already learned about the winemaking process, it was interesting seeing all the tools up close. It was also really great that they have English guides for the tour too, and we were able to bond with him over rugby (well.. Chris was), and Marvel movies!
Next, it was time to taste a few wines! Chris and I opted to share glasses so we could try more wine and ended up sampling both white and red qveveri and European-style wines. My favorite of the group was the European-style semi-sweet red. I felt a little guilty for choosing it over the dry qveveri red until our guide Kakha mentioned it was his wife’s favorite wine too. I guess she has good taste!
Why You Should Book a Kakheti Wine Tour
When in Georgia, drink the Georgian wine, and where better to do that but on a wine tasting tour in Kakheti! It’s great to know what you’re drinking when you go to a Georgian restaurant, and learning about the winemaking process and culture gives you so much more appreciation for the wine.
While it is possible to do a day tasting in Tbilisi at places like Vintage Wine Shop and 8000 Vintages (that’s something I’ll be trying soon!), if you have a free day for a day trip from Tbilisi, I highly recommend booking a tour to the Kakheti wine region.
While there are plenty of tours to choose, I spent a long time researching and eventually settled on the Full Day Private Kakheti Wine Tour with Lunch and 3 Wine Tastings which we found on Viator. I loved the emphasis on local wine and smaller wineries, as well as the cultural lunch!
I’ve heard from a few people who went on other tours that either didn’t include wine in the price (seriously??) or involved giant busses of people, especially in the warmer months. Many of these tours stop at a giant cheese and bread shop instead of the quaint hole-in-the-wall place we visited. They also only stop at big box vineyards and you don’t get the experience of visiting a local’s home for lunch.
Overall, I’m super happy with my experience, and I highly suggest booking the tour we found on Viator!
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Kakheti
If you’re booking your own Kakheti wine tour, here are a few quick things you should know before you go!
Firstly, there’s no need for a big breakfast if you’re stoping for bread and cheese. I had two eggs before we left and that was perfect. The tour also provides water so you don’t need to worry about bringing that either!
Wear flat shoes, even if it means you don’t look as fancy. There will be a bit of walking on cobblestones, and around the city wall so you want to make sure you can keep up without breaking an ankle! If you’re heading in the winter you definitely want shoes with a good grip in case it’s been snowing!
You’ll also want to bring cash for a tip. The standard is 10-15% for the tour guide and 5% for the driver. While it’s not completely necessary it’s definitely appreciated! Try to have enough GET on hand for this if you can, but USD also works. Unfortunately, we forgot about this and ended up having to tip in USD and Euros. Awkward!
You’ll also want a little extra cash in case you need to buy something at a shop that doesn’t take credit cards. For example, we stopped for an optional coffee break on the way home, but unfortunately, they didn’t take card so our guide bought our coffees which was super awkward!!
Finally, be aware that there’s a lot of driving in between each winery. The wineries on this itinerary are not very close together like many other wine trips you may be used to. Just drink water in between stops and take a nap on the 2-hour drive home!
Let’s Hear From You!
Have you ever had Georgian wine? Which wine is your favorite? Let me know in a comment below!
Also, if you have any questions about planning your own wine-tasting trip from Tbilisi, be sure to ask below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
Thanks to Viator for providing this tour in exchange for an honest review! As always, all thoughts and opinions are completely my own. I highly recommend this Kakheti wine tour and did a ton of research before I booked it.