Georgian Cheese

Discover The Rich Diversity Of Georgian Cheeses: From Sulguni To Guda

In the realm of culinary arts, few countries can boast a cheese tradition as rich and diverse as Georgia. Here, cheese is more than a staple; it's a reflection of the nation's cultural and geographical diversity. Each region adds its unique touch to the varieties produced, offering a tapestry of flavors that is distinctly Georgian. This article embarks on a journey to explore the top 10 cheeses that define this culinary landscape. Our exploration is not just about listing these cheeses; it's an in-depth look at their unique characteristics, the artisanal production methods behind them, and their special place in the heart of Georgia's gastronomy. Through this journey, we aim to bring to light the subtleties and richness that Georgian cheese brings to the world of fine food.

Top 10 Georgian Cheeses

The history of Georgian cheese stretches back into the mists of time, entwining with the very genesis of the nation's culinary identity. In this land, where the mountains meet the sea, cheese-making has evolved over millennia, deeply influenced by both the diverse landscapes and the resourcefulness of its people. The Caucasus Mountains, soaring high and mighty, have fostered robust, hearty varieties of cheese, while the gentler, sun-kissed valleys have given rise to softer, more delicate types. This geographic and climatic diversity is a key player in the symphony of flavors that characterizes Georgian cheese.

In selecting the top 10 Georgian cheeses, our criteria were manifold. We sought varieties that not only epitomize the quintessence of Georgian cheese-making traditions but also exhibit a breadth of flavors and textures that showcase the country's diverse terroir. These cheeses were chosen for their historical significance, their popularity among connoisseurs and locals alike, and their unique production methods that continue to stand the test of time. Each cheese in this carefully curated list is a story unto itself, a piece of Georgia's rich gastronomic tapestry, waiting to be unraveled and savored by cheese enthusiasts around the globe.


Suluguni Cheese
Suluguni: A slice of Georgian tradition, simple and sumptuously tangy.

Sulguni is a semi-hard, brined cheese that has become a signature of Georgian culinary tradition. It is particularly renowned for its slightly sour and tangy flavor, paired with a notably elastic texture. This cheese is typically white or pale yellow in color and can be found in various forms, including fresh, smoked, and aged.

Sulguni hails from the Samegrelo region, a western area of Georgia known for its rich culinary history. This region’s humid climate and fertile lands contribute significantly to the distinct taste and quality of Sulguni.

Traditionally, Sulguni is made from cow's or buffalo's milk, although some variations use a mixture of cow and goat milk. The cheese-making process involves a unique technique of stretching and kneading the curd, giving Sulguni its characteristic texture. After forming into round, flat shapes, it is typically soaked in brine. Some varieties are smoked over cherry or applewood, adding a deeper, more complex flavor profile.

Sulguni is versatile in Georgian cuisine, enjoyed on its own or used in a variety of dishes. Its ability to maintain shape and texture when melted makes it a popular choice for baking and grilling recipes.

Imeretian (Imeruli)

Imeruli — Imeretian Cheese
Imeretian cheese: Delicately porous, delightfully fresh, and authentically Georgian.

The Imeretian cheese, or Imeruli, stands out as a softer, less salty alternative to Sulguni. It boasts a mild, slightly tangy taste and a soft, almost spongy texture. This white cheese is a staple in Georgian households, known for its versatility and gentle flavor.

Imeruli originates from the Imereti region, nestled in the heart of Georgia. The region's moderate climate and rolling hills provide ideal conditions for dairy farming, which is central to Imeretian cheese production.

Imeruli is traditionally made from cow's milk. The process involves curdling the milk, then pressing and aging the curd to achieve its characteristic texture. Unlike Sulguni, Imeretian cheese is not brined, resulting in a less salty flavor.

This cheese plays a crucial role in Georgian cuisine, most famously as the primary filling in Khachapuri, Georgia's iconic cheese bread. Its melting qualities and subtle taste also make it a favored ingredient in various other Georgian dishes.


Guda Cheese
Guda cheese: A Georgian marvel, with a texture as intriguing as its rich, earthy flavor.

Guda is a distinctly Georgian cheese, known for its firm texture and pungent, earthy flavor. Characterized by its strong aroma, Guda often has a slightly sharp taste that develops through its unique aging process. The cheese is typically yellowish-brown on the outside, with a pale, creamy interior.

This cheese is specific to the mountainous regions of Georgia, particularly the areas of Tusheti and Pshavi. The harsher climate and alpine pastures of these regions are instrumental in shaping Guda's robust flavor profile.

Guda is traditionally made from sheep's milk, although some variations may include a mix of sheep and cow milk. The process starts with curdling the milk, followed by pressing and shaping the curds into small, round forms. These are then aged in sheepskin bags, which contribute to the cheese's distinctive taste and texture. This aging process can last several months, during which the cheese develops its firm texture and rich flavor.

Guda's strong taste makes it a favorite for adding depth to various dishes. It can be enjoyed on its own, as part of a cheese platter, or used as an ingredient in cooking, particularly in traditional Georgian stews and breads.


Tenili Сheese
Tenili cheese: Delicate threads of flavor, woven into Georgia's culinary tapestry.
Image courtesy:

Tenili or Meskhetian cheese, with its unique appearance and exquisite taste, is a true representation of Georgian cheese-making artistry. Traditional to both the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions, it is a standout among Georgia’s estimated 250 varieties of cheese. Tenili is known for its stringy, slightly chewy texture and its distinctive salty, sour kick, making it a delightful companion to hot bread.

Tenili's roots are deeply embedded in Georgian culinary tradition, specifically in the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions. This cheese stands as a cultural symbol in these areas, representing a rich heritage of artisanal cheese-making.

The process of making Tenili is as fascinating as the cheese itself. It begins with sheep’s or cow’s milk, which is boiled to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are then transferred to a separate container, while the whey continues to simmer. The hot whey is periodically poured over the curds to soften them, setting the stage for the remarkable 'pulling' process.

In a method steeped in tradition, the cheesemaker – always a woman in this ancient practice – carefully stretches the warm curds. This process is both an art and a skill, as the cheese is pulled into long, silk-like strands. The resulting cheese net is then soaked in salted water and hung to dry. The final step involves submerging the cheese in heavy cream and stuffing it into a clay pot for aging, a practice reflected in the name Tenili, which implies ‘stuffing a hole with more of something than it can comfortably hold’. Properly preserved, Tenili can be stored for several months or even years.

The tradition of making Tenili almost vanished during the Soviet era, with only a few households keeping the old methods alive. Today, this cheese-making art has seen a revival. Enthusiasts can participate in Tenili masterclasses at the Chobareti Meskhetian House or visit commercial workshops in Andriatsminda village. Additionally, Tenili has found its way into some supermarkets and gourmet grocers in Tbilisi, making it more accessible to cheese lovers.


Dambal’Khacho Cheese
Dambal’Khacho cheese: A rustic Georgian delicacy, its mold-ripened rind hiding a heart of creamy richness.

Dambal’khacho is a dry, aged cheese known for its strong, distinctive flavor and crumbly texture. This cheese has a deep, almost musky taste with a slight tanginess, making it a unique addition to the Georgian cheese palette.

Dambal’khacho originates from the mountainous Tusheti region in northeastern Georgia. The cheese is deeply rooted in the highland cheese-making traditions of this remote area.

This cheese is traditionally made from buttermilk, a byproduct of butter making. The curds are fermented and then aged in clay pots, a process that can last several months to over a year. During aging, the cheese develops a crust on the surface, while the interior remains crumbly and rich in flavor.

Dambal’khacho is often enjoyed as part of a cheese board or used as an ingredient in cooking, where its robust flavor can enhance the taste of various dishes. Its unique texture also makes it a favored choice for crumbling over salads and soups.


Chogi Cheese
Traditional Georgian Chogi cheese, known for its rich flavor and crumbly texture, ready to be savored.

Chogi, a traditional variety of Tushetian cheese, is particularly known for its piquant aroma and flavor. It is crafted exclusively in the Tusheti region from the raw milk of Tushetian sheep during August, a time when the milk is notably richer and more fatty due to reduced yield.

This cheese is geographically unique to Tusheti and its standards are safeguarded by Sakpatent registration. The production process is intricate and reflective of the region's traditional cheese-making practices. Freshly milked sheep’s milk is gently heated to 36-37°C and then curdled using rennet. The resulting curd is formed into a cheese head, which is then drained of whey. Unlike Guda cheese, Chogi is not stored in a sheepskin bag but placed in a wooden barrel lined with birch bark to facilitate further whey drainage.

The barrel is covered and stored in a dark place for about a week. After this period, the cheese, now covered in mold, is removed and laid out to dry in the sun. Once dried, the cheese is returned to a clean barrel, with the pieces previously at the top now placed at the bottom, and vice versa. The barrel is then covered again and stored in a dark place for another week, with the exact duration depending on the ambient temperature, which affects the cheese’s maturation rate.

Once matured, the cheese is hand-rubbed with salt (2 kg of salt for every 10 kg of cheese) until it no longer sticks to the hands. The final step involves placing the mixed Chogi cheese in a burduch (a type of Guda) for a minimum of twenty days to age, after which it is ready for consumption.

Chogi can be stored at temperatures up to +12°C and maintains its quality for over 12 months, a testament to the efficacy of its traditional production and aging processes. The cheese's unique taste and aroma make it a cherished delicacy, encapsulating the essence of Tushetian cheese-making heritage.


Kalti Cheese
Assorted Kalti cheeses, showcasing their distinctive round shapes and variety of crusts indicative of different aging techniques.

Kalti is known for its hard texture and strong, salty flavor. This dense cheese has a slightly granular feel, making it distinctly different from the softer varieties of Georgian cheese. Its robustness is complemented by a rich, deep taste that is both savory and satisfying.

Commonly found in the mountainous regions of Georgia, Kalti is a testament to the highland cheese-making traditions. The environmental conditions of these areas, including the flora and fauna, significantly influence the distinct character of Kalti.

Kalti is made primarily from sheep's milk, although cow's milk may also be used. The production process involves a longer aging period compared to other Georgian cheeses, contributing to its harder texture and more concentrated flavor. The cheese is often kept in special maturation chambers where it develops its characteristic hard rind and dense interior.

In Georgian cuisine, Kalti is often savored on its own or used grated over dishes to add a punch of flavor. Its durability and long shelf life make it a popular choice for shepherds and travelers in the region.


Nadugi Cheese
Stuffed Nadugi cheese, a Georgian specialty, served with fresh herbs, ready for a culinary experience.

Nadugi, with its soft, cottage cheese-like texture, offers a gentle, creamy taste often enhanced with a hint of mint. This fresh cheese is known for its spreadable consistency and mild, delicate flavor, which makes it a favored ingredient in Georgian culinary preparations.

Nadugi is predominantly found in the Kakheti region of Georgia, an area rich in agricultural diversity. The lush pastures and temperate climate of this region contribute to the quality of milk used in Nadugi, impacting its subtle flavor.

The production of Nadugi involves curdling cow's milk and then draining the whey to achieve its characteristic soft, spreadable texture. Fresh herbs, particularly mint, are often mixed into the cheese, adding a refreshing dimension to its taste.

Nadugi is typically used as a filling in traditional Georgian breads or served as a spread with a variety of dishes. Its light, creamy nature makes it a popular choice for breakfasts and light meals, often paired with fresh bread and vegetables.

Acharuli Chlechili

Acharuli Chlechili
Acharuli Chlechili, a Georgian cheese, displayed here with its hand-pulled strands and bright white color, is indicative of the traditional cheese-making methods of the region.

Acharuli Chlechili is a traditional Georgian cheese originating from the Autonomous Republic of Adjara in the southwest of the country. Characterized by its composition of several thin but robust strands, this cheese is unique to the region's summer dairy production. The key to its distinct quality lies in the use of skimmed cow's milk, sourced from cows grazing at altitudes between 1,800 and 3,000 meters. The high-altitude pastures, rich in diverse flora, contribute significantly to the milk's richness, directly influencing the cheese's flavor and texture.

The production process of Acharuli Chlechili involves initially acidifying the milk at ambient temperature. Once the desired acidity level is achieved, an equal amount of fresh skimmed milk is added and heated to 65-70°C. In a traditional technique, whey from a previous batch is incorporated into the mixture, aiding in the development of the cheese. The heating process continues until the cheese mass forms, which is then left to cool.

The next stage involves hand-spinning and stretching the cheese mass, which is shaped into a doughnut form. This is then folded over and twisted, resembling a rope. This procedure is repeated two to three times, resulting in four cheese strands. These are placed in a special mold known as "kabitsi" for pressing. Once the cheese has cooled, it is salted, and additional layers can be added.

Typically, Acharuli Chlechili is stored for 1 to 2 months in a cool environment before it is ready for consumption. A smoked variant of the cheese is also available. The cheese is known for its specific, pleasant taste profile, which is slightly acidic, spicy, and salty, with a color that varies from white to yellow.

Due to its intricate production process, confined to a specific region and season, and requiring significant labor, Acharuli Chlechili is relatively rare. It is a sought-after ingredient in traditional Georgian dishes, notably in "borano," a dish where the cheese is combined with vegetables, rolled in flour, and fried in butter. This usage underlines Acharuli Chlechili's adaptability and significance in Georgian cuisine.


Kaimaghi Cheese
Fresh Kaimaghi cheese, a traditional Georgian dairy product, known for its creamy texture and rich flavor, presented ready for consumption.

Kaimaghi Cheese, a unique dairy product in Georgian cuisine, is especially prevalent in the Ajara region, bordering Turkey. This region’s highland areas, known for developed livestock farming, are central to Kaimaghi production. The cheese is typically made during late spring and summer, capitalizing on the fresh, rich grass-fed milk of the season. While traditionally sourced from cow's milk, variations include buffalo, sheep, or goat milk.

In the past, fresh milk was stored in special containers, where, over a few days, it naturally separated, forming a creamy layer. This cream was then carefully collected to make Kaimaghi. Modern practices involve using a liquid separator to expedite this process, producing a product with a sour cream-like consistency and a slightly sour taste.

Fresh Kaimaghi is best consumed shortly after preparation. In Georgian cuisine, it's often used in various dishes, adding a rich, creamy texture. If not consumed fresh, Kaimaghi hardens, resembling butter, and is used in winter dishes like Borano. It's also mixed with cheese or potatoes for frying, or combined with flour to make flavorful breads.

High in dairy fats, about 60%, Kaimaghi is a rich, nutritious addition to Georgian culinary traditions, though its high-fat content makes it less suitable for young children.

This cheese, deeply rooted in the pastoral traditions of Georgian highlands, embodies the region's rich dairy heritage and offers a taste of Georgia's diverse gastronomic culture.

The Production And Aging Process

Georgian Woman and Her Cheese
A local Georgian cheesemaker proudly presents handmade wheels of traditional cheese, showcasing the authentic craftsmanship behind the country's esteemed dairy produce.
Image courtesy: Pavel Ageychenko

The art of cheese-making in Georgia, a craft honed over centuries, elegantly balances tradition with modernity. At its core, Georgian cheese-making is steeped in practices passed down through generations, with each region adding its distinctive touch. Traditional methods often involve the use of raw, unpasteurized milk, which is believed to retain the natural flavors and nutrients of the milk more effectively than pasteurized milk. The process starts with the curdling of milk using natural rennet or acidic substances like lemon juice or vinegar. This technique, while simple, requires skill and experience to achieve the desired consistency and flavor. The curds are then typically hand-pressed and shaped, a practice that varies from region to region and often gives each cheese its unique form and texture.

In modern Georgian cheese-making, some of these steps have been mechanized to increase efficiency and consistency. However, many artisanal producers still adhere to the traditional methods, valuing the distinct character they impart to the cheese. The introduction of temperature-controlled aging rooms and standardized hygiene practices has improved the overall quality and safety of the cheeses, making Georgian cheese more accessible to the international market.

The aging and fermentation processes play a crucial role in developing the flavor and texture of Georgian cheeses. Aging, in particular, allows the flavors to deepen and mature. Cheeses like Dambal’khacho and Guda are aged in unique environments, such as clay pots or sheepskin, which imbue them with distinct flavors that cannot be replicated through industrial processes. The fermentation process, on the other hand, contributes to the development of the cheese's texture. In cheeses like Nadugi and Tenili, fermentation results in a softer, more spreadable consistency. In contrast, cheeses like Kalti and Tushuri undergo a longer fermentation and aging process, resulting in a harder, more granular texture.

This intricate interplay of aging and fermentation, underpinned by both traditional and modern techniques, is what gives Georgian cheeses their remarkable diversity. Each cheese, with its own unique process of creation and maturation, tells a story of the land and the people who have perfected these methods over countless generations. This dynamic blend of history, art, and science in Georgian cheese-making is not only a testament to the country's rich culinary heritage but also a window into its evolving gastronomic landscape.

Culinary Uses And Pairings

The versatility of Georgian cheeses extends far beyond the cheeseboard, playing a pivotal role in both traditional and innovative culinary creations. Each variety, with its unique flavor profile and texture, offers endless possibilities for pairing and cooking.

Starting with the elastic Sulguni, it's a staple in the iconic Georgian dish, Khachapuri - a cheese-filled bread that has gained international acclaim. Sulguni's ability to melt smoothly without losing its texture makes it ideal for baking and grilling. Pair it with a crisp white wine, like a Georgian Rkatsiteli, which complements its tangy flavor without overpowering it.

Imeretian cheese, with its mild and creamy texture, is another key ingredient in Khachapuri, but it can also be used in salads, giving them a creamy touch without being overwhelming. This cheese pairs well with light-bodied red wines, such as a young Georgian Saperavi, creating a harmonious balance with its gentle flavors.

Guda's pungent and earthy notes make it a perfect candidate for enhancing the flavors of rustic breads and hearty stews. When it comes to pairing, Guda aligns beautifully with bold red wines. A full-bodied Saperavi, with its tannic structure, matches well with Guda's strong character.

The stringy and rich Tenili cheese is a delight in cold appetizers and salads, offering a unique texture. This cheese pairs elegantly with semi-sweet white wines, like a Georgian Mtsvane, which cuts through its richness while complementing its salty profile.

Dambal’khacho, with its robust flavor and crumbly texture, is excellent when sprinkled over soups or used in stuffing for meat dishes. Its intense flavors are well-matched with aged red wines, which resonate with the cheese's depth and tanginess.

Chogi, similar to feta, is a great addition to fresh salads or as a topping for grilled vegetables. A dry, mineral-rich white wine, like a Tsinandali, can enhance Chogi's briny and tangy notes without overwhelming the palate.

Kalti, being hard and salty, is ideal grated over pasta dishes or baked into savory pastries. A medium-bodied red wine, like an aged Mukuzani, complements its saltiness and adds a layer of complexity to the pairing.

Nadugi, soft and spreadable, is perfect as a filling in blinis or on toast with herbs. It pairs wonderfully with light, floral white wines, such as a Georgian Chinuri, which harmonizes with its creamy texture and subtle flavors.

In sum, Georgian cheeses, with their diverse flavors and textures, not only enhance a wide range of dishes but also offer exciting pairing possibilities with both Georgian wines and a variety of other foods. Their adaptability in the culinary world is a testament to their rich heritage and the skill of Georgian cheese-makers.

Georgian Cheese and a Wine Grape
Aged cheese displayed with a cluster of fresh grapes, embodying the harmony of traditional Georgian viticulture and cheese-making.


The journey through the world of Georgian cheeses reveals a remarkable spectrum of flavors, textures, and culinary possibilities. From the elastic, tangy Sulguni to the robust and earthy Guda, each cheese serves as a testament to Georgia's rich dairy heritage and the artisanal mastery that has been refined over centuries. These cheeses are not just food; they are stories of regions, traditions, and people, each contributing to the vibrant tapestry of Georgian cuisine.

The diversity of Georgian cheeses is astounding. Whether it’s the creamy, mild Imeretian, the unique, stringy Tenili, or the crumbly, intense Dambal’khacho, each variety brings its own character and history to the table. This diversity extends to their culinary uses as well, with each cheese offering unique possibilities in cooking—from the heartwarming Khachapuri to sophisticated cheese platters and innovative fusion dishes. The suggested pairings with Georgian wines further highlight the cheeses' gastronomic versatility, presenting a delightful exploration of flavors and textures for enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.

This exploration into Georgian cheese is more than a culinary guide; it’s an invitation to experience a rich cultural heritage through taste and aroma. Each cheese, with its distinct identity, beckons gourmets and curious food lovers alike to delve into the world of Georgian cheese-making. Whether it is through trying these cheeses in their traditional forms, experimenting with them in contemporary recipes, or pairing them with an array of wines, the journey promises a rewarding and enlightening experience.

As Georgia continues to share its culinary treasures with the world, the allure of its cheeses stands out as a unique and unmissable facet of its gastronomy. For those seeking to broaden their culinary horizons, the cheeses of Georgia offer a delightful and enriching path to discovery. The invitation is open: to savor, to experiment, and to appreciate the remarkable world of Georgian cheese, a world where every bite tells a story of tradition, craftsmanship, and the bountiful Georgian landscape.

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