Saperavi is a dry red wine made from the Saperavi grape varietal grown in some areas of Kakheti, Georgia. It is an extractive wine with a strength of around 10.5-12.5% alcohol and a notably high level of acidity, making it suitable for blending with a number of other wine varieties. Saperavi, which actually means “paint” or “dye” in Georgian, is particularly dark in color, characterized by a deep red hue. Saperavi is typically enjoyed as a single varietal with some of Georgia’s more fatty, meat-heavy national dishes – such as shashlyk.

1886 marked the first year Georgians produced Saperavi wine. During the Soviet era, it was among the most popular red wines in the grape growing regions of the former USSR, as well as Georgia. In comparison with wine from other Soviet countries, such as Moldova and Crimea, Georgian wines, including Saperavi, were generally preferred by the Soviets. The Georgians have ancient winemaking traditions and the preference is as much attributable to the wine’s high quality as to the personal endorsement and support of the wines from Stalin, who was Georgian.

Between 1950 and 1985 Georgian vineyards more than doubled in size. However, under Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign in May of 1985, many of Georgia’s prized vineyards were bulldozed. Saperavi wine producers took another loss in 2006, when Russia banned the importation of Georgian wine, driving producers to look to new markets, including China, North America, and Western Europe. In 2013, Russian markets opened back up, and today, wine is a $693 million market in Russia, as citizens are increasingly turning away from harder alcohol like vodka and toward to lower-alcohol beverages like beer and wine. Today, Saperavi continues to be popular across the Eurasian space.

Check out a Saperavi harvest at the Pheasant’s Tears vineyard in Kakheti, Georgia below:

Saperavi wine can also be grown in some parts of Australia. Below is an Australian review of “Alpine Valley Saperavi:”

Rylin McGee is a junior at the University of Richmond studying International Relations - Development and Change, with a focus on the environment and a minor in Russian Studies. Currently a SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar, she is working to improve her language skills and learn about Russia’s environmental history and policies by attending SRAS’s Russia and the Environment program in Irkutsk during the spring 2018 semester. Beyond studying, Rylin enjoys hiking, yoga, painting, coffee/tea, and exploring.