While Georgia is famous worldwide as the cradle of wine, artifacts discovered during archaeological excavations have also proven that cheese has been produced in this beautiful country from ancient times.
There are officially 14 types of local cheeses registered in Georgia: Imeruli, Kartuli, Sulguni, Sulguni Megrelian, Sulguni Svanetian, Gudis, Tushetian, Chechili Adjarian, Chechili Meskhetian, Tenili, Chogi, Kalti, Kobi and Dambal-Khacho. Georgian cheese is traditionally made from cow’s milk, but various types of cheese are also made from the milk of sheep, goats and buffaloes.
Local lovers of cheese have discovered many unique methods of cheesemaking and preservation. In West Georgia, for example, there is a long tradition of storing cheese in chacha, a traditional Georgian homemade brandy distilled from leftover grapes after the juice has been squeezed from them. This method of storage was invented as a ploy against Muslim conquerors, who would not touch products that had been “tainted” by alcohol.
The most popular and unique Georgian cheeses include:
Imeretian Cheese – The most common type of cheese in Georgia, Imeretian cheese is made with cow’s milk. It is not salty and has a soft texture. This type of cheese is ideal for cooking khachapuri, a popular Georgian cheese bread.
Sulguni Cheese – The second most popular type of Georgian cheese. Sulguni has a layered structure and an elastic consistency. This type of cheese is commonly found in the Samegrelo and Upper Svaneti regions of Georgia. Quite often, Sulguni is smoked to ensure a longer shelf life, making it a popular Georgian smoked cheese.
Guda Cheese – In the northern regions of Georgia, most notably Tusheti, Pshavi and Khevi, sheep husbandry is well developed, and shepherds from these regions have created an unusual method for storing cheese. They make special bags from sheepskins, called guda sacks, and store the freshly made sheep milk cheese inside the guda sacks for a long period of time. This gives Guda cheese a very specific flavor and odor, which anyone who enjoys exotic tastes is sure to love.
Dambal-Khacho Cheese – The most expensive Georgian cheese, Dambal-Khacho (whose name literally means “moistened quark”) also hails from the northern regions of Georgia. The process of making this cheese is quite complicated and time-consuming, taking an average of 2-3 months from start to finish. Dambal-Khacho is a mildewed cheese that contains natural penicillin.
Tenili Cheese – This unique cheese is common in the South Georgian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti and, like Dambal-Khacho cheese, is made using an extremely complicated and time-consuming process. Tenili cheese is unique in that it is shaped like a string and has a high fat content. Both Tenili and Dambal-Khacho cheese are included in UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Monuments of Georgia.