Chacha: The Other Side of Georgia’s Wine Story

Giorgi Lomsadze and Nikoloz Bezhanishvili

At some point during their millennia-old history of winemaking, Georgians began using leftover grapes to make distilled drinks. The result was chacha (ჭაჭა), a grapes-flavored booze with a formidable 50-percent alcohol content, on average. (That’s 100-proof in American alcohol- measuring terms.) The alcohol level can go still higher, depending on the maker’s tastes and prowess as a drinker.

Many Georgians brew chacha at home, both in rural and urban settings, using makeshift contraptions or family-owned stills. While viewed as something of a cultural patrimony, until recently chacha only played a supporting role in Georgia’s wine-dominated alcohol-industry.

But now, chacha-makers are exploring the export-potential of their trade. Brandy and grappa might need to make space on the international drinks-tray, for chacha is coming.

Editor's note: Giorgi Lomsadze and Nikoloz Bezhanishvili are journalists based in Tbilisi, Georgia.
© 2015 The Open Society Institute