Ojaleshi grapes, a famous Georgian variety found primarily in the mountainous areas of Samegrelo, are the key ingredient in the production of award-winning red dry and semisweet wines.
Studies indicate that Ojaleshi is the oldest grape variety in Samegrelo. Its name means “grows on trees” in the local Megrelian language, although it is also known in the region as Shonuri and Svanuri. Ojaleshi have been classified as a ponto vine variety.
During his travels through Georgia, French explorer Jean Chardin offered insights on Megrelian viticulture, praising the local wines and particularly those created from Ojaleshi grapes. In the 19th century, Megrelian prince Davit Dadiani established Ojaleshi plantations in the village of Salkhino. Dadiani's son-in-law Ashil Murat further expanded the plantations, which by 1912 had grown to 16 hectares. That same year Ashil presented wine made from Ojaleshi grapes at the Paris International Agricultural Show and was awarded a gold medal.
It should be noted that in Lechkhumi and Guria there is also a grape variety called Ojaleshi, yet its botanical features differ dramatically from the Ojaleshi grapes grown in Samegrelo. Local residents claim that the Lechkhumi and Guria variety was first grown in the 1900s by landlord Ivan Eristavi in Guria’s Chokhatauri District. Nowadays this variety is widespread throughout eastern Guria.
Ojaleshi grapes have a vegetation period of 245 days and ripen in the mountainous areas of Samegrelo in mid-November. By the time of ripening the sugar content will have reached 23-24% and the total acidity approximately 8.5-9%, a ratio which is perfect for producing excellent semisweet wines. It gives the first sign of harvest in the second year after planting and fully ripens in the fourth year.
Wines made from Ojaleshi grapes are characterized by their harmonious taste, pleasant bouquet, intense coloring and balanced ratio of alcohol and acidity. When Ojaleshi are harvested late, a high-quality, semi-sweet wine is produced.