On Georgian wine: Back to the future!

As the oldest wine-making country in the world, with more than 500 indigenous grape varieties, 8,000-year history and off-the-beaten-path wine styles, Georgia has emerged to become a wine destination for curious drinkers. With the intense desire to resurrect the country’s diverse natural heritage, Georgia is leading producers to plant more traditional varieties, many that had almost been forgotten.

Prepare to have your tongue twisted and your mind blown at your first encounter with Georgian grape varieties.


Off the coast of Black Sea, Georgia is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It is bounded on the north and northeast by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan.

Despite being a small area, Georgia is a country of immense regional diversity and one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Because of its position and historical factors, traditional natural wine production in Georgia has been preserved and kept away from industrialisation, leaving wine production at family scale and winemakers to work naturally.

Due to the Soviet-era repression, which kept Georgia’s heritage away from the western market, it wasn’t until the 2000s that the western world came into contact with Georgia again. Especially thanks to Italian winemakers Josko Gravner and Giusto Occhipinti, who after visiting Georgia, brought back the traditional Georgian Qvevri vinification to draw inspiration for their own winemaking.


Georgia is known by many for its Qvevri: a traditional Georgian egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for making, ageing and storing the wine. The knowledge and tradition of Qvevri manufacturing and winemaking are passed down by generations. Nowadays, there are only five villages where you can still see the Qvevri-making process done the old-fashioned way.

The Qvevri winemaking process involves pressing the grapes and then pouring the juice, grape skins, stems and pips into the Qvevri, which is then sealed and buried in the ground. Burying the Qvevri up to its neck in soil achieves stable temperatures (a winemaker’s dream) while the shape of the vessel allows the contents to circulate quite organically during fermentation. The Qvevri adds much more structure and complexity to the wine.

Qvevri come in a variety of sizes, with the largest specimens holding up to 10,000 litres. Anything from 100 to 4,000 litres is about average. The Georgian Qvevri wine-making method was recognised and listed in Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.


Pheasant's Tears


The name Pheasant’s Tears comes from a Georgian tale in which the hero claims that only a wine beyond measure could make a pheasant cry tears of joy. With each bottle that leaves their hands, John and Gela strive to meet that ancient standard.

Gela Patalishvili is a winegrower and farmer in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia while his business partner, John Wurdeman, is an American painter based in Georgia since 1998. Their friendship and shared passion for wine brought them together to found Pheasant’s Tears in 2007, when they bought their first Saperavi vineyard.

They now take care of around twenty hectares - all organic vines and local grapes, most of them almost forgotten and brought back to life. In the winery, they work with respect to the traditional methods using qvevris, no additives, and magic at work.

Okro’ Wines


Originally from the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia, John has been immersed in his country’s rich wine culture since he was born, as any other local winemaker. His own wine chapter truly began in 2009, when he first bottled his wine under the name Okro.

To taste his wines is to drink from a time capsule: the farming is of course organic, and has been since time immemorial; John’s vines – a few hectares of Saperavi and Takveri for the reds and Tsolikouri, Kakhuri Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli for the whites – are nurtured with care and he does not touch his grapes or his wines once in the cellar.

Very close to John Wurdeman of Pheasant's Tears, the two men share a common passion for traditional Georgian winemaking. In the bottle: the purest expression of the fruit and terroir, these are wines of character that reflect the generosity of this fabulous wine region.


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