Trans Eurasia travel

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Kvareli, 35km east of Telavi at the foot of the Caucasus, is famous for its semisweet Kindzmarauli wine, and for being the birthplace of the famous Georgian writer, reformer and patriot, Prince Ilia Chavchavadze (1837–1907). Considered by some to be the father of modern Georgia, Chavchavadze was made a saint of the Georgian Orthodox Church in 1987.

Because of the town’s proximity to the mountains and their often marauding tribes Kvareli’s population needed the security of
good fortifications. In the 18th century King Erekle II had two sets of walls built, one inside the other. Ilia Chavchavadze’s house & museum (Rustaveli 3; 10am-5pm) contain a defensive tower that was useful on the very day he was born, as Lezgins were at that moment rampaging through the area. This museum has a lot of 19th-century photos and a few personal effects. The house is not very large, but the marani is truly impressive.

The importance of wine in Kakheti is demonstrated at the Kindzmarauli winery, 3km outside town, by a 2km-long tunnel with 15
side passages (each 500m long) all filled with huge 20,000L metal storage tanks of wine. Kindzmarauli is Georgia’s biggest winery and the tunnel is the second biggest wine storage tunnel in the world. The temperature underground is a naturally consistent 14°C, ideal for the preservation of the wines here.

Kindzmarauli has no organised visiting programme, but someone will probably show you the tunnel and give you a couple of glasses to taste.