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Terry Sullivan

SarajishviliSummary: While in Tbilisi, make an appointment to visit Sarajishvili, the first brandy distillery in Georgia. Today the company has three locations in Georgia, two distilleries and the aging and bottling campus in Tbilisi.

David Sarajishvili was a public person and philosopher during the nineteenth century. He was the first person to work on brandy production in Georgia. Back in the late 1880s wine and Chacha were widely enjoyed in Georgia. However, while traveling in Germany, Sarajishvili saw many types of spirits. He decided to return to Georgia and make brandy. A time was spent in France learning viticulture, winemaking and to learn how to make cognac. In 1884 he set up his company in Georgia. The first production of brandy was in 1887. Compared to the 8,000 year old wine production in Georgia, brandy production is quite new.

SarajishviliFor the purpose of making brandy, Sarajishvili divided Georgia into three regions based on varietal grapes he was interested in using. Sarajishvili chose the grapes: Chinuri, Goruli Mtsvane, Tsitska and Tsolikouri. For brandy production, the acidity level of the grape needs to be high. These varietal grapes already have high acidity. The acidity is even higher when grapes are harvested early. Grapes are harvested at about 16º - 17º Brix. This level of sugar will create a 9 percent alcohol wine with high acidity. The wine is double distilled; the alcohol content will be in the 40 percent range. The spirit is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.

SarajishviliThe Tbilisi site is one of three sites in Georgia used to make and age the brandy. Several buildings are on the site. We walked along a street to one of the buildings passing a wall sculpture on the side of one of the buildings. The wall sculpture showed a vineyard, harvest and winemaking. The first building we entered was filled with oak barrels.

The brandy is aged in barrels at the Tbilisi site. Georgian oak barrels, French oak barrels and Caucasus oak barrels are used for aging. Some brandies are aged for as little as three years, whereas others are aged for many more years. Bottling is also done at the Tbilisi site.

SarajishviliWe walked across a mall-like area to another building stopping along the way to note the sculptures and landscaping. A large chess set is available for those interested in playing the game. In the second building we visited, larger wood tanks were in this building. This building was also the site of our brandy tasting. Brandy, glasses and an assortment of foods were set out. We were instructed on how to taste brandy. First we were asked to hold the bowl of the glass in the palm of our hand to warm the brandy to room temperature. While holding the glass, we were asked to smell the bouquet on several occasions and notice if it changes. We then were asked to taste the brandy. We tasted two brandies.

SarajishviliThe Sarajishvili VS was a gold color with an orange tint. There were floral hints and dried fruits on the bouquet. The wine was smooth with some alcohol burn. Dried yellow stone fruits were available on the taste and finish. Sarajishvili VSOP is a blend of brandies that have been aged for a longer time. Some of the brandies in the blend were aged for 20 years. The brandy was a gold color with some vanilla hints and dried fruit flavors. It was smooth and had dried fruit and hints of spice on the finish.

It was wonderful to learn about the production of grape brandy from indigenous Georgian varieties. Sarajishvili's Tbilisi site has a certain university-like feel and a passionate staff who will lead you through the process and tasting.

4 Sarajishvili Avenue
0153, Tbilisi, Georgia

Article Written April 2014




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