Traditions and New Discoveries of the “New Wine Festival”

“Chekobali”, “Simonaseuli”, “Ghrubela” – Reviving the Forgotten Grape Varieties

Nato Gubeladze

This year, under the initiative of the “Wine Club” and Tbilisi City Hall, the “New Wine Festival” has been arranged in Georgia for the sixth time and the events have lasted for three days. The Festival was opened at the restaurant “Funicular”, on May 8, in the evening, and the first day was dedicated to tasting the wines made of the rare species of Georgian vine (9 types of wine).

 On May 9, the “New Wine Festival” moved to the Dedaena Park. The Tbilisians and the guests had a chance to taste about 80 types of wine made from the new harvest and produced by about 60 big or small companies and 55 “Family Maranis” (family cellars).

We have interviewed the festival founders and several participants of the event who talked of their activities and the importance of festival.

 Iago Bitarishvili (wine-producer, Director of the “New Wine Festival”): “The New Wine Festival – 2015” may already be considered as a successful event. This festival was distinguished with several novelties. For the first time this festival lasted for three days instead of one day. Compared with the previous years, the quantity of participants reached the highest number – 52 companies and 54 family cellars from the regions. Especially for this festival 10 important guests (wine writers, bloggers, etc.) were invited from abroad who participated in the event during all three days. Generally, I think that the “New Wine Festival” has a multilateral importance. It promotes: establishing in Georgia the Day of Wine Celebration; raising the wine culture; popularization of Georgian wine on the domestic market (as attending the festival for guests is free) and among the foreign guests and the media representatives invited especially for the event; at this festival everybody has a chance to participate in it and introduce their own wine to the potential consumers”.

Malkhaz Kharbedia (President of the “Wine Club”): It is already sixth time we arrange the “New Wine Festival”. These years proved that Georgian viticulture and wine-producing is being developed very boldly and in a very interesting way. Every year we have new participants. There were such cases when in previous years some participants were presented as family cellars and today they already participate in this festival as companies.

The main goal of this festival is to increase Georgian wine horizon, to establish relationship between the Georgian consumer, the wine lover and a concrete wine-maker and some concrete wine. It’s natural, it bears an educational function and a huge cultural importance, as wine is not only some kind of a product, it is a cultural phenomenon that may change Georgian consciousness radically”.

John Wunderman (Founder of company “Khokhbis Tsremlebi” [“Pheasant’s Tears”]): From the very beginning, for me the “New Wine Festival” represented an event to be welcomed and it remains the same even today. I think the location was very suitable. I am very glad that many families and young wine-makers become experienced and this festival gives them the chance of it. I am thankful to the organizers. And, generally, I think that diversity is one of the main “trumps” for Georgian wine-making”.

David Chichua (Head of Agricultural Products Processing-Storage Research Department of Scientific-Research Center of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia): “This center was founded on the basis of the Jighaura Nursery. Our aim is to promote popularization of the rare and forgotten species in order the consumer to recollect the forgotten traditions, the good berry that in fact represents one of the determinants of our nation’s originality.

Today we have presented here for tasting the wines made from 12 varieties of grapes, and we take full responsibility in front of the population for their popularization. For example, among the red grapes – “Argvetuli Sapere”, as well as, “Simonaseuli” (Kakhetian variety), that is not far behind, and is even equal to “Saperavi” with its features. This is a very dark color, fleshy, interesting specie of red grape and we may tell that the wine made from this variety was a discovery for everybody. Megrelian “Chekobali” is also another discovery that we can say that is one of the best Georgia species. “Meskhuri Mtsvane” is also a very good variety from a bit extreme-geographic area, as it may be grown and high quality grapes may be received even at height 1000meters above sea level that is rather a rare exception for Georgian species. A very interesting variety is “Ghrubela” – it has a pink color, it is dry, made with European method without a long contact with chacha”.

Kakha Chotiashvili (the founder of Ltd. “Satsnakheli” Family Cellar, oenologist): “I always used to say and keep saying that such festivals are great incentives for the wine-producers. From the beginning I used to participate in it as a family cellar, however the lectures of the Wine Club, and generally, its activities, encouraged me and I made rather a brave step – I have established a juridical firm under the name Ltd. “Satsnakheli”, and now I want to be introduced in front of the consumers as a company with a wider assortment.

I have presented at the festival three types of wine, and many consumers were interested in them – some individuals, wine bars and shops, and they requested our contact information. This for sure will be reflected on our future cooperation. This festival is not only a celebration; this is a kind of business for each of us.

Nana Ratianidze (“Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking”, Head of Sales and Marketing Department): “It’s already the sixth time we participate in the New Wine Festival. It is some kind of a stimulus for aspiration towards novelties, to new stages of the company’s activities, for developing new projects. In this respect, our company may be considered as an exemplary one. In despite of its name (“Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking”) our company is not tied only to Kakheti region. This is a company which now has an enterprise in Keda too, in Ajara, and which is interested in rare species of grapes, and, in order the farmers to offer the incentive to grow vine, the company delivers them free of charge the saplings which aren’t known yet and are forgotten. After several years this will give Georgians a great result. We are proud of this project of “Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking”.

Malkhaz Jakeli (Founder of “Jakelebis’ Wines”): I myself am a member of the “Wine Club” and participate in the “New Wine Festival” since 2010 when it was held for the first time. Of course, I think that such festivals bear great importance. Generally it should be mentioned that the “Wine Club” has done a tremendous work in popularization of Georgian Wine culture. If Georgian wine has caused an interest in which I myself also have played a small role and these people too, this is the merit of that interesting and unfamiliar taste of Georgian wine, and the merit of qvevri (pitcher) that is in Georgia, and that is ours”.

Ramaz Nikoladze (Association “Qvevri Wine”): “The association was established in partnership with the Italian organization “Slow Food” and from the very beginning we have set the goal to reestablish the qvevri wine tradition and its popularization. For today we may say that the program minimum is already completed. Day by day the Qvevri Wine becomes more popular and the number of the members of our association is being increased. The members of the association are the family cellars of different regions of Georgia which make wine in qvevri. First we were only eleven, and now the number of our members has become thirty. Our varieties are rather diverse: in western Georgia – “Chkhaveri”, “Tsitska”, “Tsolikouri”, “Krakhuna”, “Otskhanuri Sapere”, in Kartli – “Chinuri”, “Tavkveri”; in Kakheti – “Rkatsiteli”, “Saperavi”, “Zhghia”.

Sulkhan Gulashvili (one of the founders of the small enterprise “Sagvareulo Marani” – Family Cellar): “Our family cellar is in Kardenakhi. We produce traditional qvevri wines and mature them in barrels – “Saperavi” and “Rkatsiteli”. The founders of this company are my brother Vladimir Gulashvili and I. Annually we harvest 3 tons of “Rkatsiteli” and “Saperavi”. In addition, we plan to plant “Khikhvi” and “Kakhuri Mtsvivana”.

 Shalva Gvaramidze (One of the partners of company “Shalvino”): “we do our best our wines to become popular. It’s very pleasant that last year at the “Georgian Wine Competition” arranged by Georgian Sommelier Association, two of our wines have been awarded highest prizes and handed the Certificates with the signatures of the President of Georgian Sommelier Association, Minister of Agriculture and Tbilisi Mayor.

Among the winners one type of wine was made from the “Saperavi” grapes grown in a special zone (Akhoebi) that is a semi-sweet natural wine “Shavi Tvalebi” (Black Eyes), and the other was a fortified sweet wine “Kardenakhi”. Both wines are very much liked by the Georgian consumers, and on the foreign markets as well, particularly “Shavi Tvalebi” is liked in China and Great Britain.

As for the “Kardenakhi” this is a unique wine the traditions of making of which started in Georgia in the twenties of the XX century. I would mention it with great pleasure that our wine-maker Nana Tsiklauri has done her best to reestablish the old tradition of making this type of wine and following this method we managed to get this wonderful wine.

Recently our distributor from America informed us that at the professional tasting of the wines produced in eastern countries, arranged by one of the most prestigious wine magazines of America “Wine and Spirits Magazine”, four Georgian wines were given 90points with 100point evaluation system. Among them was our wine “Kardenakhi” that was the single one among the liqueur wines. This information was published in this magazine in April. Of course, we are also pleased to learn that three other Georgian wines, among them two from “Telavi Wine Cellar” got 90-92points, and “Tsinandali” from “Wineman” – 90points. The recommendations of the magazine are very authoritative for the American consumers and this success will definitely increase a demand on our wine, and generally, on Georgian wine”.

Zurab Luarsabishvili (Charitable Union “Community”, Head of the farm): “Our union functions in Kvareli region, village Gremi, and takes care of the care-devoid children, the disabled and the aged people. We produce bio-wines “Saperavi” and “Rkatsiteli”. At the International Wine Exhibition of “ExpoGeorgia” in 2013 we were awarded the silver medal, and in 2014 – the golden medal. Our production is sold in Berlin, Norway, Italy, and we are in the process of negotiation with Switzerland.

For a manufacturer like we are, for such a social enterprise which does not have funds to invest in advertisement, this kind of festivals are of special importance, and very useful. Whatever we sell is the merit of such exhibitions like “ExpoGeorgia” and “New Wine Festival”.

Jean-Louis Terras (French wine-maker of company “Giuaani”): “People are very much interested in wine festival. For us it is very important to participate in this event as this is the first year we appear on market, and we try to establish our place here. People have tasted our wine and we guessed that we have not worked in vain; on the contrary, we are very content with the achieved results. It’s already four years I cooperate with company “Giuaani”, and I like Georgian wines very much. I think Georgian vine varieties are absolutely different from others… I have tried to adjust all my experience and my knowledge to this business and made adaptation to Georgian grape varieties and local traditions. I am very satisfied with working here. There are the best conditions created in the enterprise; our cellar is equipped with ultra-modern devices, and the employees are also very motivated, and I think we will achieve the goal which we have set from the very beginning. In all this the merit of Kakha Giuashvili, the founder of the enterprise, and mine, as well as, that of Georgian young assistant Tornike Tushishvili is very great”.

Levan Chubinidze, Elene Bukhaidze (Managers of “Wine and Tourism Association”): Our association was established in 2014 and its goal is popularization of Georgian wine, encouraging Georgian wine-makers, and promoting wine tourism development. With our participation in this festival we want to introduce ourselves to the society and let them know of our goals and tasks. Generally, I want to thank the “Wine Club” for arranging such a wonderful festival for many times. This event encourages both the tourists and the Georgians. Today, at the festival many such wines and wine-producers were presented, which are not familiar to many people”.


On that day, in despite of the heavy rain, the “New Wine festival – 2015” lasted till 6:00pm. And, on the third day the wine tours for foreign guests were arranged in Kakheti and Kartli and they were hosted by: Kvareli “Gvirabi”, “Velistsikhe Veranda”, the family cellars of Iago Bitarishvili, Gogi Dvalishvili, and Giorgi Revazishvili, small enterprise “Pheasant’s Tears”, and the wine companies “Shumi” and “Corporation Kindzmarauli”.


  1. Opening the “New Wine Festival” in the “Dedaena Park”
  2. Malkhaz Jakeli – Founder of “Jakelebis’ Wines”
  3. Levan Chubinidze, Elene Bukhaidze Managers of “Wine and Tourism Association”
  4. Nana Ratianidze – representative of “Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking”
  5. Giorgi Kurdiani and Kakha Chotashvili
  6. Sulkhan Gulashvili – “Sagvareulo Marani” (Family Cellar)
  7. Giorgi Samanishvili, Nina Khatiskatsi, Gigla Agulashvili, Malkhaz
    Kharbedia, Giorgi Chogovadze at the “New Wine Festival”
  8. David Chichua – Scientific-Research Center of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia
  9. Tornike Tushishvili, Jean-Louis Terras – company “Giuaani”
  10. Ramaz Nikoladze – Association “Qvevri Wine”
  11. Nana Tsiklauri, Shalva Gvaramadze – Company “Shalvino”