Chkhaveri is a dark pink-skinned grape from western Georgia. An ancient variety, it is grown mainly in the regions of Guria (where it likely originated) and Adjara, and to a lesser extent in Imereti. The climate in these regions is subtropical due to the influence of the Black Sea. While the warm weather makes the area well suited for the cultivation of late-ripening varieties—chkhaveri is usually not harvested until the second half of November—high humidity makes the grapes especially prone to fungal diseases. To combat this issue, vines in Adjara and, especially, Guria were traditionally grown up trees (often alder, mulberry, or cherry) in a system called maghlari (“high”), in order to keep them well above the ground. Maghlari vines are no longer common but chkhaveri is still high trained. It does particularly well in limestone soils on cool, south-facing slopes where humidity is reduced.
Chkhaveri grapes are round, thin-skinned, and juicy, and grow in small, conical or cylindrical clusters, sometimes with a single wing. Thanks to its high acidity, chkhaveri is a particularly versatile variety. It produces wines in a range of styles, including dry and semi-sweet, still and sparkling. Chkhaveri wines are usually rosé but can also be white, amber, or light red. Moderate alcohol levels (usually 11-12% by volume) and good balance are common characteristics, while aromas and flavors vary greatly from style to style.
During the 20th century international varieties with higher yields and resistance to diseases and pests largely replaced chkhaveri and today just a handful of winemakers continue to cultivate it. However, because of its distinctiveness and high quality, this variety is experiencing a revival. Several producers age their chkhaveri wines in the traditional Georgian amphorae known as kvevri.