This ancient vinifera originates in Georgia and is one of the oldest grape varieties. In Georgia, clay vessels were found with seeds of Rkatsiteli grapes which date back to 3000 BC.
Rkatsiteli was popular in the Soviet Union prior to its fall and at one point was responsible for more the 18% of all Soviet wine production. There it
was used to make everything from table wine to liqueurs to Sherry-like fortified wine. Prior to President Gorbachev's vine pull scheme, it was possibly the world's most widely planted white wine grape. In Kakheti it was particularly known for its sweet dessert wines fashioned in the same manner as port wine. There were many attempts to create a sparkling wine from the grape but its naturally high alcohol levels prevented it from being much of a success.
The grape is mostly planted in its ancestral home of Georgia though there are still sizable plantings in other Eastern European countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Macedonia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
The high acidity of the grape is prone to make the wines excessively tart so winemakers try to pick the grapes as late as possible in order to maximize the sugar balance to offset the acidity. In most regions of Eastern Europe harvest is typically in mid October. Rkatsiteli makes noticeably acidic, balanced white wine with spicy and floral notes in the aroma.