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How to pronounce Rkatsiteli:

Georgia’s ancient and most planted grape, Rkatsiteli, is often produced with traditional techniques involving skin contact and qvevri fermentation. These methods can lend the wines a rich amber color and complex flavors, ranging from crisp green apple and citrus to deeper notes of honey and walnut. Rkatsiteli’s vibrant acidity and textured profile make it a unique and cherished variety in the wine world.

Also known as: Baiyu

Table of Contents

Primary Flavors

  • Pineapple
  • Lime
  • Resin
  • Tarragon
  • Fennel

Taste Profile

Rkatsiteli is known for a vast array of wine styles. Influenced by winemaking techniques, terroir, and ripeness at harvest, it can vary from fresh and high-acidity to full-bodied and robust, and includes styles like traditional qvevri amber wines, dry whites, and even semi-sweet expressions.

On the nose, Rkatsiteli typically exudes notes of green apple, citrus, and herbal hints. In its qvevri-fermented, skin-contact version, aromas of honey, dried apricot, and earthy nuances may emerge. Other expressions tend to emphasize crisp citrus, while those made with skin contact offer richer and more exotic aromas.

On the palate styles range from light and zesty with pronounced acidity to full-bodied and textured, with a complexity brought out through qvevri and skin contact. Wines can be dry or semi-sweet, and traditional amber wines made with skin contact in qvevri provide an intricate balance of tannins, depth, and unique flavor profiles. In its multitude of expressions, Rkatsiteli embodies the rich tradition and innovative spirit of Georgian winemaking.


Medium-light Body

No Tannins

High Acidity

11.5–13.5% ABV

How to Serve Rkatsiteli Wine

Rkatsiteli wines are typically served chilled, enhancing the freshness of modern, crisp styles. Traditional, skin-contact amber wines may be served slightly warmer to reveal their complexity. A white wine glass suits most Rkatsiteli wines, with a broader glass potentially chosen for the richer, skin-contact versions. Many Rkatsiteli wines are made for immediate enjoyment, but some have the acid and concentration to improve over many years.

photograph of rice and other persian foods
The acid in Rkatsiteli cuts through rich foods – perfect with many Persian dishes. Photo by Roozbeham.


    45–55°F / 7-12°C






    3-5 Years

Rkatsiteli Food Pairing

Rkatsiteli’s versatility shines in its pairing ability. Crisp styles complement light dishes, while the traditional skin-contact amber wines match well with spiced meats and aromatic rice from Lebanese, Turkish, and Iranian cuisines. This range allows Rkatsiteli to be paired seamlessly with a variety of world flavors, reflecting its multifaceted character.

picture of ripened white grapes with a pinkish hue on the vine
Rkatsiteli grapes. Photo by Wines of Georgia UK.

5 Fun Facts About Rkatsiteli

  • Rkatsiteli is one of the oldest grape varieties, with a history tracing back over 3,000 years.
  • It was once one of the most planted white grape varieties in the world, due to its intense plantings in the Soviet Union.
  • The grape’s name, “Rkatsiteli,” translates to “red stem” in Georgian.
  • Rkatsiteli vines are known for their ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures.
  • There is more Rkatsiteli planted around the world than Pinot Gris or Cabernet Franc.
photograph of a river splitting in two with mountains and an orthodox church
The Caucasus mountains play an important role in the climate of Georgia. Photo by Patrick Keller.

Where it Grows

Rkatsiteli, rooted in Georgia’s rich winemaking history, became the main grape variety planted during the Soviet era in the USSR. As a result, it’s predominantly found in ex-Soviet countries, including Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine. Though it has spread, its unique character and traditional expressions remain a symbol of Georgian wine culture, reflecting its legacy within the region.

  1. Georgia: 62,575 acres (25,323 hectares)
  2. Russia: 16,005 acres (6,477 hectares)
  3. Ukraine: 14,270 acres (5,775 hectares)
  4. Bulgaria: 13,381 acres (5,415 hectares)
  5. Moldova: 8,397 acres (3,398 hectares)
  6. Kazakhstan: 8,777 acres (3,552 hectares))

Total Vineyard Area – 126,950 acres (51,374 hectares) (data from 2016)

earthen jars set alongside a stone wall surrouded by mountains
Georgia has many different wine appellations and a long history of winemaking with qvevri. Photo Copyright Colangelo & Partners.


What to expect: Rkatsiteli, as a central figure in Georgian winemaking, offers diverse expressions, with the most renowned coming from the eastern region of Kakheti. Here, the grape’s true character shines through various styles, influenced by both modern and ancient winemaking techniques.

Kakheti: Known for its traditional qvevri wines, Kakheti’s Rkatsiteli exhibits rich amber hues, complex aromatics of dried apricot, honey, and walnut, paired with a textured body and refreshing acidity. The region’s winemaking mastery, using skin contact and earthenware vessels, emphasizes the grape’s unique characteristics, creating world-class, cellar-worthy wines. The beauty of Kakheti’s landscape adds to the allure, making it a must-visit for wine enthusiasts seeking authenticity of Georgian wine culture.

The winemaking process using traditional qvevri in Georgia. Image by: National Wine Agency of Georgia.

In-Depth Knowledge

Take a deep dive into understanding the complex nature of Rkatsiteli.

A Long History

Rkatsiteli’s roots stretch back over 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest known grape varieties. Originating in the fertile lands of Georgia, it has long been integral to the region’s cultural identity.

The ancient art of winemaking thrived in Georgia, with Rkatsiteli playing a prominent role. Archaeological findings show evidence of early cultivation and winemaking techniques that underscore the grape’s importance to the local economy and society.

During the Soviet era, Rkatsiteli’s versatility led to its widespread planting across the USSR. It became the primary grape for bulk wine production, often leading to high yields but diluted flavors. The emphasis on quantity over quality during this period pushed the grape away from its traditional expressions.

During the Soviet era, Rkatsiteli’s versatility led to its widespread planting across the USSR. It became the primary grape for bulk wine production, often leading to high yields but diluted flavors. The emphasis on quantity over quality during this period pushed the grape away from its traditional expressions.

The many shapes of the original amphorae.

What’s a Qvevri?

Qvevri winemaking is a traditional Georgian method that dates back thousands of years. It is so vital to the country’s cultural heritage that UNESCO has recognized it as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The process involves using large earthenware vessels called qvevri, which are buried underground. These vessels provide a stable temperature for fermentation and aging, allowing the wine to develop complex flavors and textures.

In the qvevri method, Rkatsiteli grapes are often fermented with their skins, stems, and seeds, leading to amber wines rich in tannins and aromatics. The prolonged skin contact adds depth and complexity, creating a wine that is both robust and nuanced.

The shape of the qvevri, with its pointed bottom and wide body, promotes natural circulation during fermentation. Sediments settle at the narrowest part, allowing clear wine to be drawn off while leaving behind the solids.

Qvevri winemaking emphasizes minimal intervention, letting nature and time shape the wine’s character. The practice is enjoying a resurgence, with both traditional producers and modern winemakers embracing it. It encapsulates the essence of Georgian wine, weaving together history, tradition, and innovation.


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