A Reverence for Georgia Wines

 


Wine geeks are sometimes told to lighten-up. Wine is “just a drink”; “just a grocery”. When it comes to serving whites at 42° F versus 47° F, matching wines to specific glasses and pairing Assyrtiko rather than Sauvignon Blanc with crudo, I agree. However, I suggest you don’t tell a Georgian to chill about wine. In this dramatically rugged Caucasus Mountains country, wine is holy. And not just the communion wine. 
 
Wine is part of the Georgians’ sacred trinity, along with the motherland and the mother language. It is so holy, I feared expectorating (or as lightened-up folk say, spitting) at a wine-producing monastery. When I persisted in doing so later on my eight-day trek through eastern Georgia’s Kakheti region, I received some disapproving looks.
 
While all wine is revered, those made in qvevri (pronounced kwev-ri) are the most precious. Qvevri are fired clay vessels lined with beeswax that look like super-sized amphora. They are easily 1,000 liters large and are buried in the earth for fermenting and aging wine. 
 
One of the reasons qvevri wines resonate so strongly with Georgians is that this winemaking tradition dates back 8,000 years. That’s a lot of harvests! That’s also the reason Georgia is called the “cradle of wine”, even if neighboring Armenia and Turkey dispute that title.
 
Modern style wines are made there as well. I like tasting modern wines to see the purer side of local grape varieties. It’s a striking contrast that in modern winemaking we generally think of old, neutral vessels as giving a purer grape expression. With qvevri – whether new or old – both vessel and winemaking can radically change grape expression.
 
Georgian wines are beginning to trickle into the US. To encourage the flow, pick up a few today! 
 
PS: The two Pheasant’s Tears wines were qvevri fermented.
 
Apparently mentioned in a later edition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, this legendary sparkling wine house makes many styles. This deeply-colored bubbly based on the native Saperavi has considerable sweetness that is smartly balanced by bright acidity and a touch of tannin. It was my fave!
 
This white blend of 85% Rkatsitelli and 15% Mtsvane is the best-known Georgian wine in the world. At Marani, this medium-bodied wine is fermented in stainless steel then partially aged in oak barrels. Its nose resembles the wet wool and bruised apples of Chenin Blanc along with yellow peaches and straw.
 
This skin-contact white wine is pale gold. Its nose smells of beeswax, honeysuckle and lemon pith. Medium-bodied with a firmly dry finish, it’s a wine for the table rather than aperitivo time. Chinuri means “coming from China”, but this is definitively considered a Caucasus Mountains variety today!
 
This unique, charcoal black-colored red shows aromas of mulberries and plum jam along with leathery notes. Its dry tannins and perky acidity make it a bit tight, but that works out well with hearty meat dishes. 

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Comments

  • Snooth User: TexasBob
    106289 7

    Nice to see Georgian wines getting some attention. Though their reds generally focus on the semi-sweet (Kvanchkara and Kindzmarauli - both probably misspelled), the famous ballerina Nino Ananiashvili and her husband have started their own label under the Ananiashvili name that uses Bordeaux varietals. While the vines are still quite young, the early bottlings have been of promising quality.

    Mar 26, 2015 at 5:13 PM


  • Not just the communion wine? As a Catholic, we belive that wine is the actual blood of Christ, through the process of transubstantiation that occurs during a sacred Mass. To say that not just the communion wine is holy is akin to the advertiser who markets to Mexico not realizing that his English words translated into Spanish have just offended a whole country of people. Nice going. Jesuits are one of the biggest fans of wine around. As our Catholics. You just offended them. Good job.

    Mar 26, 2015 at 10:51 PM


  • Snooth User: Caliope1
    851242 11

    ^^^^^ Troll Alert ^^^^^

    Mar 27, 2015 at 5:29 PM


  • @Midwesterner Well, maybe the "actual blood" isn't very good...... In any case, while you are certainly welcome to express your religion's literal beliefs, please don't use this forum to express them. And by the way, "our" Catholics should be "are" Catholics. Their not mine either.

    Mar 28, 2015 at 8:53 PM


  • Snooth User: Wufer
    280604 6

    I find this wines incredible tasty and high quality particlular in relation to price. The Saperavi or Saperavi + Cabernet Sauvingon aged on oak barrel or i qvevri is fanstastic well comparable with an high level Rioja Riserva or an Zinfandel, bid taste.
    The amber coloured wihite wines from quervi is really from heaven, nice indeed.

    Mar 30, 2015 at 12:08 AM


  • Thats striking

    Mar 30, 2015 at 2:10 AM


  • Thanks for excellent coverage of Georgian wines! For international readers interested in daily news updates on Georgian wine in English language, there is Hvino News (I don't include the link here to avoid advertising, but you may google for it)

    May 24, 2015 at 6:50 AM


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