Just Back From

Just Back from Georgia: “One of the Last Great Undiscovered Food Cultures of Europe”

To understand Georgia, one must know that the country was occupied by Russia for nearly 70 years in the twentieth century. Twenty percent of the country remains occupied. This, however, is what makes Georgia so unique. As Rene Redzepi said, Georgia is “one of the last great undiscovered food cultures of Europe.” He described the country as being so slow in its development that it somehow ended up ahead of everyone else. It is astounding, unassuming and almost too shy to show its greatness.

Along with Indagare’s Diana Li, I just returned from a trip to the capital city of Tbilisi and Georgia’s most important wine region, Kakheti. The experiences you can have in Georgia are incredibly special, albeit sometimes rough around the edges. It’s one of the few places on Earth where you can witness the ancient techniques of food production and winemaking. For example, you’ll show up at a winery, which is simply a farmer turned winemaker’s home, and sit down to a meal with the owner only to find out that the wine you’re tasting is on the menu at some of the best restaurants in the world from Noma to El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a future trip to Georgia. Our team can match you with the right itinerary and activities that are right for you. 


Tbilisi is a fascinating city. You can see Soviet influences in the architecture, graffiti covers many walls (typically with anti-Russian words), but at its heart sits a beautiful old town with a maze of narrow streets and traditional wooden houses with wrought iron balconies (surprisingly reminiscent of the architecture of New Orleans in many ways). Since the time of the Silk Road, Tbilisi was an important link between East and West and, because of this, the cityscape reflects a blend of Georgian, Arab and Russian cultures.

Simply strolling the Old Town allowed us to experience the soul of Tbilisi, but we also discovered an exciting food scene. A few favorite restaurants in Tbilisi: Gunda Bakery for Georgia’s famous khachapury (cheese-filled bread); Kakhelebi for dumplings; Poliphonia for its natural wine and veggie-focused take on Georgian cuisine; Salobie Bia for casual traditional fare; Elegia for the atmosphere and wine list; and Fabrika, the cultural center in the midst of Tbilisi that has multiple restaurants, shops and bars. If Tbilisi were to have a Time Out Market, this would be it.

Visiting the Kakheti Wine Region

While Tbilisi intrigued us and left us wanting more during our short visit to Georgia, it was the Kakheti wine region that blew us away. Kakheti looks similar to Piedmont on the surface, rolling green hills topped with ancient villages. Georgia is home to many wine regions and while each can be topographically compared to Europe’s other great wine regions, Kakheti is the country’s most important and it is also where you can find some of the best natural wine producers. The producers here proudly work with many of the over 525 varieties of wine native to Georgia. Symbols of wine can be found everywhere in the country, but even more so when you enter the wine region. You’ll find grapes carved into old stone structures and qveri’s (the vessel used to ferment, age and store wine in Georgia) at the center of fountains in squares and villages.

In Kakheti, you’re often invited into the homes of locals that double as wineries rather than visiting wineries that prioritize commercial endeavors. I have experienced this in Piedmont, as well, but what was uniquely Georgian was the warmth of the hospitality. It seemed as if everyone we met was a Renaissance man or woman, forced to take on many skills to adapt to changing and challenging times.

A winemaker was also a farmer, an artist, a poet, perhaps a lawyer, businessman or woman or a dentist in the local village. At wineries, we always sat down for a meal around the winemaker’s dining room table. We got to taste wine straight from the vat, tried vintage after vintage and ate the freshest of food grown from the garden outside. Wine tastings lasted hours in Georgia and it was nearly impossible to get up from the table. This trip really showed us how food and wine are truly the ultimate connectors.

You must toast in Georgia before drinking wine; we learned that one phrase was often echoed in the toast– “To peace and to God and to the guest.”

Among the highlights: Tibaani Vineyards with an incredible BBQ breakfast; lunch at Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant in Sighnaghi (one of the more developed villages) with delicious vegetables; Lost Ridge Inn for beer and a farm-to-table feast; Okro for the cider and beautiful views; and chef Sopo Gogadze and her husband, Levan’s  small cheese production facility, with delicious cheeses made from their cow and goats’ milk. Kerovani and Gia Tognidze’s Winery were also standouts.

A note on where to stay: The region has a long way to go in the luxury hotel category–the best option right now is the Tsinandali Estate by Radisson, which is opening villas in the coming year. Tsinandali Estate is in the heart of Kakheti and the hotel is located on the grounds of the former palace home of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, the 19-century Georgian Romanticist renowned for his traditional, organic wines and winemaking techniques.

While we experienced two distinct regions, there is more I want to return for as I didn’t get a chance to see many sites around the country. Georgia has so much to offer from its landscapes (hiking in summer, skiing in winter) to its history and culture and, of course, the wine and gastronomy. For someone looking to be on the forefront of food and wine exploration (and who doesn’t require the best of the best in hotels) Georgia is a not-to-miss destination that should be added to the top of your list.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a future trip to Georgia. Our team can match you with the right itinerary and activities that are right for you. 

Published onMarch 30, 2023

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