“A trip to Georgia is not just visiting and discovering; it is to put things into perspective and remind us that wine is part of the culture rather than a trend.” natural wine importer
Planning a wine trip to Georgia
Wines of Georgia, the U.S. office of Georgia’s National Wine Agency, offers these travel notes for U.S. wine trade and media professionals who are interested in visiting Georgia. Please note:
• This information was current until the start of the COVID-19 crisis, so please check for updated information here and at the websites linked below.
• This list is based on personal experience and is not intended to be comprehensive. It simply seeks to answer travel questions we often receive as we organize trade and media trips.
• Wines of Georgia and Colangelo & Partners are not affiliated with any of the companies listed or mentioned here.
• For up-to-date travel information to Georgia, please see the US Embassy in Georgia's "COVID-19 Information for Georgia" travel page.
• Tbilisi International Airport (code: TBS) is the country’s main airport. Connections to Tbilisi are available through all the major European hubs: Munich, Paris, London, etc.
• Visitors flying from the U.S. West Coast often find great connections to Tbilisi through Doha or Istanbul.
• From the east coast (New York, Washington DC, etc.) we usually fly United/Lufthansa through Munich, connecting to Tbilisi.
• Wizz Air, a low-cost Hungarian airline, has direct flights to Georgia from 40 European cities—so if you are traveling from other wine regions, look for flights from Rome, Milan, Barcelona, London, Madrid, Lisbon, Nice, and Paris. Wizz connects to Kutaisi International Airport (code: KUT), in the heart of the Imereti wine region of western Georgia. Buses run daily from the Kutaisi airport to Tbilisi. The buses are nice, with air conditioning and Wi-Fi.
• We recommend that you book your hotel transfer from the airport in advance through your hotel. (There will be a sea of drivers vying for your business if you do not.) It makes life so much easier if you can simply look for a placard with your name or the hotel name when you leave the baggage area. This also saves you a stop at an ATM machine at the airport.
• Most flights from Europe arrive around 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. Whenever you leave your hotel, you can easily walk to a nearby ATM to get Georgian Lari (GEL), the local currency.
Hotels in Tbilisi
With the surge in tourism over the past few years, many hotels have sprung up in Tbilisi. You can find everything from luxury hotels to Airbnb options. Because our wine groups typically stay in Tbilisi for only a short time in order to maximize our time in the wine regions, we have found that the options below work well for us.
• G.Vino City Wine Hotel, run by the owner of a fantastic wine bar in Tbilisi, opened in 2019. We love its outdoor courtyard, delicious breakfasts, boutique rooms, and extensive wine list (available 24/7). Walking to Old Town Tbilisi from here takes 20 to 30 minutes longer than from the hotels listed below, but it’s worth the extra walk. You can often find one or two winemakers in the courtyard in the evening if they are in town.
• Rooms Hotel is a boutique hotel with an industrial chic vibe located on Rustiveli Avenue in the city center. It has an amazing breakfast buffet. Prices are a bit steep during high season.
• Moxy by Marriott is where we stay with larger groups because of its affordable rates and convenient central location. Rooms and breakfast are basic, but it has a great public working space, nice coffee shop/lunch café in a shared garden square, and an extremely friendly and responsive staff.
Restaurants & Wine Bars in Tbilisi
In Tbilisi, here are a few enjoyable wine bars and restaurants with a wine focus:
• Azarphesha - Vegetarian food that will make you want to give up meat.
• Barbarestan - Amazing meals based on recipes by Barbare Jorjadze, a 19th-century chef and feminist.
• Cafe Littera - Wonderful courtyard-garden restaurant for lunch, afternoon coffee, or dinner.
• 8000 Vintages - Large wine shop and café; with over 1,000 wines, it may have the most comprehensive offering of Georgian wines in Tbilisi.
• G.Vino Wine & Tapas Bar - Local wines and wine-friendly Georgian food in the heart of Old Town Tbilisi.
• Poliphonia - Natural wine restaurant with a modern take on traditional Georgian food.
• Shavi Lomi - Friendly, quirky atmosphere with great food and a large wine list.
• Tsangala’s Wine Shop & Bar - Informative wine bar and retail shop in Old Town.
• Vino Underground - Ground zero for natural wines. Owned by winemakers.
Many of the larger wineries also have their own wine bar in the city.
In Tbilisi: Uber and Lyft don’t currently operate in Georgia, but there is a great service called Bolt with a similar app interface. We use it heavily while in Tbilisi. Download the app and add your credit card before you leave for Georgia, and you will be set.
In the wine regions: To get around in the wine regions, you can either rent a car through a major rental company at the airport or book a car and driver through your hotel.
However, depending on which winemakers you want to visit, language may be a barrier. Though a winemaker who doesn’t speak English can typically find a neighbor or family member to interpret, we advise members of the trade and media to use one of the translator/sommeliers that we work with for technical discussions. These guides can arrange for a car and driver for you. Because some of the wineries can be difficult to locate, we have had feedback that this car/driver/interpreter package is well worth the cost.
Please email us at [email protected] if you would like a recommendation. This service can also include developing an itinerary and booking appointments with the wineries.
• Georgia’s country code is 995.
• Most of our communication with winemakers happens via Facebook Messenger. Facebook is the primary social media platform in Georgia.
• When visiting winemakers and wineries, you will need to book in advance.
• The local currency is Georgian Lari (GEL).
• The exchange rate has held fairly consistent over the past several years at US$1 to 3 Lari (GEL).
• Most hotels, restaurants, and shops take major credit cards (except street markets and other small shops/stands).
• We recommend getting $100 worth of GEL from an ATM on your first day and relying on a credit card (with no international fees) for larger items.
Most power outlets use the standard Northern European plug (type C).