Usakhelauri is a rare and ancient red-grape variety that is unique to the Republic of Georgia. It is found predominantly in the Racha-Leckhumi district in the west of the country. Its principal use is in the production of a prized semi-sweet varietal wine.
Usakhelauri has a number of spellings and synonyms, including Ogureshuli, Okourechouli, Oussaheloouri and Usakhelouri. Its name translates to 'unnamed', a reference to the sheer quality of the grape, suggesting it is above names or 'beyond words'.
The variety was largely shunned during the Soviet era due to its low yield, but recognition of its superior qualities has secured its future in Georgia. The country is considered to be the birthplace of winemaking and is home to around 500 distinct Vitis vinifera varieties. Despite this diverse range of vines, only 38 grapes are approved for commercial use, of which Usakhelauri is one.
Usakhelauri production is extremely limited, with only two or so producers making it. In good years, production will be around 700 to 1000 bottles of semi-sweet Usakhelauri wine, meaning that each bottle is quite expensive for Georgian wine (approximately $50). Georgia's semi-sweet wine is produced by stopping fermentation before it is complete, leaving residual sugar in the wine – Usakhelauri is generally stopped at 11% alcohol.
Usakhelauri wines are velvety smooth, with delicate floral aromas and subtle wild strawberry and cherry flavors plus a hint of spice. Usakhelauri is one of Georgia's most celebrated wines.
Synonyms include: Ogureshuli, Okourechouli, Oussaheloouri, Usakhelouri.
Food matches include:
Europe: Khachapuri (Georgian suluguni cheese bread)
Africa/Middle East: Churchkhela (grape, nut and raisin sweet sausages)