Rkatsiteli is a green grape from Georgia, very popular in many countries in East Europe and in the Caucasus region. The variety’s relative importance within the wine industry is really high in Georgia and Kazakhstan.
Rkatsiteli is very popular due to its high acidity combined with high levels of sugar. It is one of few varieties that also is capable of retaining good acidity levels also in very warm conditions. Another feature that makes it popular is its robustness when it comes to weather conditions. It is capable of surviving the very cold winter conditions in Caucasus.
It is a medium low aromatic grape which, in combination with high acidity and high sugar levels makes it perfect for production of brandy as well as fortified wines. It is also used to make a dry as well as sweet wines. Due to its high sugar levels, it is not well suited for making sparkling wine. Aromas and flavours are of green apples and white flowers.
There are reports of the grapes, together with skins, pips, and stalks, undergoing an extended fermentation and maturation in Qvevri, a conical clay amphora/container, where they remain for twenty to forty days depending on which variety that is being vinified. This adds complexity and texture to the wines.
Few of these wines become available outside their countries of origin. When they do, reviews are not so favourable.
Given its high acidity, it should be a nice pairing with fish or shellfish. In Georgia, it is reported to often be enjoyed with a domestic Potato Pancake dish. The wine is best served at 8-10°C/46-50°F.
Where is it grown?
Rkatsiteli is, with its 58.641 ha/144,904 ac, the sixteenth most planted grape in the world. Between 2000 and 2010, it saw a world-wide decrease of thirteen percent. Yet it is still the most planted variety in three countries, and the second most planted another two.
- Georgia 25.324 ha/62,576 ac, MPG 1, PTPA 53%
- Ukraine 11.552 ha/28,547 ac, MPG 1, PTPA 22%
- Moldavia 11.508 ha/28,437 ac, MPG 2, PTPA 13%
- Kazakhstan 3.552 ha/8,778 ac, MPG 1, PTPA 51%
- Bulgaria 3.121 ha/7,712 ac (a decrease with 67%), MPG 8, PTPA 6%
- Armenia 2.469 ha/6,100 ac, MPG 2, PTPA 22%
- Russia 702 ha/1,735 ac (a decrease with 96%), MPG 11, PTPA 3%
- Romania 356 ha/880 ac (a decrease with 30%), MPG 26
- Croatia 57 ha/140 ac, MPG 40
Rkatsiteli is undoubtedly an old variety, which is reflected in the number of synonyms it has. Even if is thought to have been cultivated for several thousands of years, it is however difficult to establish how old it is. In order to do this, solid, genetic proof would need to be provided.
The same goes for reliable evidence that could confirm its place of birth more precisely. Rkatsiteli is recognised as a Georgian variety, but it is still not possible to be more precise than so if one wants to rely on scientifically based information.