Famous Usakhelouri – The unique species of Georgian vine
05 March, 2016
Famous Usakhelouri – The unique species of Georgian vine
The coopers, after tasting our wine, say that it has the odor of berries. On the slopes of Tskhenistskali river, these grapes receive the exact amount sunshine and humidity for the unique red wine.

The unique Usakhelouri was spaded by the communists not so long ago but it was later revived. This species grow only in on area in Georgia – the villages of Okureshi and Zubi.
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The coopers think it can even compete with Khvanchkara. The communists had a
reason to spade Usakhelouri. This is the wine that cannot be consumed in big amounts and so they preferred to cultivate the white Tsolikauri instead. However, several years later, something miraculous happened. An individual, who was worried about the disappearance of this unique species, thought of a very interesting idea – he drove to the bridge over Tskhenistskali river, stopped the car there and put up a banner that read: ‘Will buy a kilogram of Usakhelouri for 10 lari’. The villagers were very surprised and they were able to only gather several kilos. The man bought all of it and the next year, every single person in the village of Okureshi was looking for Usakhelouri plants. Later another young man emerged, who convinced the villagers that it was not desirable to spray Usakhelouri with chemicals. This proved to be quite difficult. The name of this young man is Levan Omanadze.
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Levan Omanadze: It was very difficult to convince them because if you spray the vineyard with chemicals, it gives more crops and it’s certainly very important for Okureshi peasants. So, I told them that the wine produced from unsprayed vineyard is far more expensive. Today, the price of natural Usakhelouri is 15 lari for a kilogram. And the wine is of exceptional quality. The coopers say that it has the odor of berries. On the slopes of Tskhenistskali river, these grapes receive the exact amount sunshine and humidity for the unique red wine.

My great-grandfather, Iulo Mushkudiani was a wine-maker. He sold Usakhelouri in various regions of Georgia and had his own little factory near Tskhenistskali river. Today, my father and I use the same technology and we are not going to change anything.

-It’s quite surprising that the 27-year-old young man is using his great-grandfather’s method in spite of there being newest technologies…


-It’s because the old road is tested by centuries and it’s a road forward. Sometimes they tell me that I was born and raised in Tbilisi and I cannot be well aware of the wine-making. My answer is that I am Georgian and every Georgian loves vineyards. My mother is originally from Okureshi and my father is from Makhuri. These two villages stand opposite each other on the banks of Tskhenistskali river. I’ve spent my best years there. That is my Georgia, my homeland. Every year, during grape harvest (it begins in the middle of Otober) I was coming here and helping my family.

-Your great-grandfather was Joseph Stalin’s contemporary. It is widely known that Stalin loved red wine, which was often sent to him from Georgia. Did your great-grandfather do it too?

-He did. This I know for sure, because when I was a child I remember a certificate that was hanging on our wall. It was signed by Stalin himself and it was a certificate for the best Usakhelouri. I did not pay much attention to that certificate back then. I did not know that I would one day decide to continue my great-grandfather’s path. Recently I asked my family members about it and found out that one of my relatives took it to prove its authenticity but lost it eventually.


-Who was that man, who bought a kilogram of Usakhelouri for 10 lari?


-It was Tariel Alavidze, former prefect. I wish every civil servant could do such a beautiful thing. He really paid for those several kilos. I’ve heard that the women who brought the buckets full of Usakhelouri to the bridge, where Tariel was waiting, said that if all that 10-lari thing was not true, they would throw everything into the river.

-You said it was very difficult to persuade the peasants not to use chemicals for Usakhelouri...


-It was very difficult indeed and I can understand them. Everybody needs money. The most interesting thing is that stopping spraying chemicals for the vineyard is the same as stopping taking drugs for drug addicts. One peasant who was from village of Manavi, told me that when he stopped doing that, his vineyard almost withered. That is why you have to stop using chemicals but do it gradually. This process often takes as much as five years, but finally you’ll have much more customers. We cannot produce as much wine as France or Italy do, but we can make a very good, natural wine and we will be a unique country in this respect.

Ilia Chavchavadze once said to Georgians: ‘Do not increase the amount of wine artificially. This is not a Georgian way. This method was brought here by the French’. He meant increasing the amount of wine by adding sugar and water. Now in some cases we try to increase the amount with chemicals. If we want to stand on our feet, this is not the way to do it.

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By Eter Eradze


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