The FINANCIAL — “If there was proper development of wine tourism, including high quality wine as well as service, existence of marked wine routes and maps, Georgia would hold a leading place in the top ten best wine countries,” claims Maia Sidamonidze, Head of the Georgian National Tourism Agency.
“Several new ‘maranis’ were opened in the last three months. Historical ‘maranis’ have also been rehabilitated. Interest from foreign investors in wine tourism has importantly increased.”
Marina Metreveli, an expert on tourism agrees that wine tourism is one important direction of tourism in Georgia.
“Wine tourism is a really very important and profitable part of tourism,” Metreveli said. “This direction has the possibility to develop very successfully if it is mapped out well. But I am not sure that GNTA has properly foreseen the project of wine tourism development. This concerns not just wine tourism but tourism development in general.”
“We have a list of the best ‘maranis’ which are already prepared to receive international visitors. The majority of such places are located in Kakheti. But some other regions including Racha, Imereti, Guria, Qartli and Ajara have great potential,” Sidamonidze stated.
The list is published on the special webpage www.winetours.ge. There is detailed information about Kakheti, the biggest region of vineyards in Georgia. Information about 16 maranis at Kakheti with all details including price, possibilities of accommodation, Georgian cuisine, souvenir shops and guides are available on this webpage. All necessary information about tour operators is published on this webpage as well. Each tour operator offers their own programme with different services and prices.
One marani out of the list is Wine House Gurjaani. When it’s the season, guests at the Wine House have the opportunity to participate in the grape harvest, pressing and winemaking, brewing Georgian vodka, baking Shoti (Georgian national bread) and making Churchkhela. There is a gift shop selling handicrafts as well. The maximum capacity of the Wine House is twelve people per night.
Another marani is located in Kardinakhi. The marani offers one and two-day tours including different services. The main part of both tours is a visit to the marani in Kardinakhi. The cost of a one day tour is 120 GEL per person and 320 GEL for two day tours.
Travel Club is one of the agencies offering wine tours in Georgia.
“We arrange three, five and seven day wine tours. There are about ten destinations in Kakheti and 28 in the whole of Georgia. They are located in Racha, Kutaisi etc,” Beka Tujishvili, Incoming Tour Operator of Travel Club, told The FINANCIAL.
“The majority of customers are foreigners, especially from Ukraine. The main tours are in Sighnaghi and Bodbe which includes visiting the marani in the village Chumlaki. As well as Ukrainians, tourists from Armenia, Russia, Spain, Italy and France tend to visit Georgia for wine tours. The price of a three-day wine tour varies from 250 USD to 300 USD. The price changes according to the requirements of the tourists. This tour includes wine pressing, making Churchkhela, traditional Georgian sweets, and baking the traditional Georgian bread Shoti,” he explained.
According to Travel Club Georgians are also interested in wine tours but not individual travellers. Corporate groups often demand tours on vintage.
As well as small private maranis there is a big wine tunnel in Kvareli and the Tsinandali marani are a must show in Kakheti for tourists interested in wine tours.
The wine tunnel in Kvareli is 7.5 km in length. There is a permanent temperature of about 14 degrees for the benefit of the grapes there. Various wines are kept all along the tunnel and there is also a small ethnologic museum.
Tourists are met at the entrance with samples of sparkling wines. Later in the tunnel they will taste about eight different types of wines starting from soft white wine and ending with dessert wine. The price of the wine tour in the tunnel depends on the size of the group. It is approximately 15-20 GEL per person.
The history of Kakheti winegrowing starts from VI millennium BC. Grape leftovers, discovered by archaeologists, date back to the mentioned period and are the oldest found around the globe, which proves once again that Georgia is the homeland of wine. Scientists believe that the word Ghvino is of Georgian origin. 500 out of the world-known 2,000 grape species are Georgian.