Wines of Georgia: You Have To Experience It To Believe It
The subject of Georgian wines is not new on this blog – I wrote about Georgian wines on a number of occasions, and those were good occasions, or may be rather even good surprises (you can find the posts here and here). But after I was lucky enough to attend Georgian Wine tasting in New York City, I don’t want to talk about Georgian wines in terms of “good surprises” anymore – I think Georgian wines are ready to take a permanent high place in the wine’s “who is who” world.
There were about 60-70 wines presented in the tasting. I didn’t have a chance to taste each and every one of them, but among those I tried, there were no bad wines. There were some which were regular, there were some which were good, there were some which were great, and there were a few which were amazing. I think this is a pretty good line up for the wines which I would collectively avoid only about a year ago, as those were mediocre at the best. There is a definite trend up in the quality of the Georgian wines, and I believe a lot of them are ready to meet discerning palates of the wine lovers around the world.
Let me share some of the notes and thoughts, supported by practical examples, of course. I already wrote before about Georgian sparkling wine called Bagrationi. It is produced for more than hundred years, using traditional Méthode Champenoise. This time I had an opportunity to try four different wines, and they all were very good, but 2007 Bagrationi Royal Cuvee was a standout for me. Medium body, very balanced acidity, very round overall.
My next personal favorite was 2010 Chateau Mukhrani Tavkveri Rose. This was one of the number of excellent wines presented by Chateau Mukhrani, and it played to my particular weakness to the Rose wines, especially during summer time. This wine is made out of the indigenous Georgian grape, Tavkveri, one of many other grapes which don’t grow anywhere else (based on information from Wikipedia, there are about 400 varieties growing in Georgia, with less than 40 used for commercial wine making).
It is not easy to produce a rose wine with the character. Lots of available rose wines from all the different regions are virtually indistinguishable – a little bit of strawberry, and little bit of acidity, nothing memorable. The Chateau Mukhrani Rose was totally different – lots of concentrated berry flavors, cranberries and sour cherries, all supported by very balanced acidity and long finish – truly a great Rose.
Another wine from Chateau Mukhrani I have to mention was 2009 Chateau Mukhrani Shavkapito. Another indigenous grape, Shavkapito, and yet another great tasting wine – good dark fruit expression, very round and layered with smooth and approachable tannins.
Next group of wines I have to mention are the wines made by Pheasant’s Tears and Alaverdi Monasteri. What puts these wines aside even in such a distinguished crowd is very unique method of making wines. Both wineries are making wine using qvevri, a clay vessel lined with beeswax, which is used for fermenting and aging of the wine. There were a number of wines presented, both red and whites, all made using qvevri. The white wines were especially unique, as they sported deep yellow color, which is typical for really old white wines, but not for the white wines which are one or two years old. Most of those white wines also showed quite extensive tannins – without being aged in the oak. All of those characteristics ( deep yellow color, tannins) are coming from prolonged fermentation and aging process which takes place in the qvevri, where grapes are crushed and juice stays in the contact with the skins and seeds for the period of up to 6 month. In addition to unique color and tannins, some of the white wines also exhibited Madeira style saltiness, coupled with enough sweetness and acidity to make overall experience very pleasant. This are really unique wines, and you should try to find them – if you can.
Last but not least are the wines which were my absolute favorite in this tasting – Mukuzani and Saperavi red wines produced by Maisuradze wines.
Both 2005 Maisuradze Wines Saperavi and 2005 Maisuradze Wines Mukuzani are produced from Saperavi grape – one of the most popular grapes used in production of the red wines in Georgia. The difference between the wines is that Mukuzani contains only Saperavi grapes actually grown at Mukuzani vineyards. Another difference is aging time in oak – Mukuzani spent 24 month in oak versus 12 month for Saperavi. Both wines are showing tremendous power and structure, and while Saperavi is more approachable, Mukuzani still needs time in the cellar – it will truly shine after another 10 years (at least) in the cellar. Both wines are excellent and definitely worth seeking.
Bottom line is simple – Georgian wines are ready for the prime time. They need a bit of marketing, and a bit of luck, and then we will all have more wines to enjoy. But for now – takes this post to your local wine store, and ask them to get these wines for you – and then let me know what you think.