Discovering the wines of Georgia is opening a Pandoras’ Box of gorgeous surprises. Respected as one of the oldest winemaking countries with a history stretching back thousands of years. Winemaking in Georgia has seen its fair share of setbacks.
The vines of Georgia did not escape the Phylloxera scourge. Two world wars and countless insect infestations added to the woes of local wine farmers. The Soviet Union landed another telling blow by destroying thousands of hectares of vineyards in the rather thoughtless attempt at curbing alcoholism.
Fortunately, the culture and fortitude of the Georgians prevailed, and today the wine industry of Georgia is steaming ahead. Testimony to their courage and tenacity, the top wines from Georgia received worldwide recognition, and here are some of their top wines.
Georgia’s most prominent grape, Saperavi, produces wines of deep dark color. The Tchotiashvili winery is one of the major players producing a rich and dark-fruited wine from the Kakheti region.
This is a classic example of this varietal. The wine is almost licorice in color with strong notes of black currents and berries. Initial fermentation occurs in the traditional Qvevri, and the wine is moved into oak barrels after about three months.
The rich tannins will preserve the wine for up to fifteen years. This is a wine to be enjoyed with game birds and richly flavored meat dishes.
Another top-quality Georgian wine is the Lagvinari Rkatsiteli 2019. The wine originates from Kakheti, the premier wine-growing region of Georgia.
The wine has a prominent amber or almost orange color derived from the skin contact time in the Qvevri during the first six months of maturation. The wine is served chilled, much like a Rose wine.
The smooth tannins are neatly balanced by the fruit flavors of apples and pears and the very appropriate nuance of persimmons. The wine produces a long and satisfying finish thanks to the well-structured tannins and will delight the palate for another eight years.
Winemaker and dedicated supporter of traditional and sustainable farming practices, Eko Glonti has another top-quality wine to offer, this time using the Saperavi grape.
This is a fine example of the rather exclusive club of teinturier or red-fleshed grapes. Alicante Bouschet is a similar variety. The Georgian word for ‘dye’ is Saperavi which indicates the deepness of the color of this wine.
Once used to enhance the depth of color in blends, the Saperevi varietal has gained popularity as a stand-alone cultivar. The Lagvinari Saperavi is a superb example of the quality of this wine.
This richly colored and well-balanced wine derives its attractive rich fruitiness and satisfying finish from the eight months it matures in the ancient qvevri before being bottled. It will quite comfortably spend another eight years or so in the bottle.
Before leaving this outstanding winemaker, I must mention one more wine briefly.
Tsolikouiri is one of the oldest and rarest Georgian wines. The skin contact in the ancient qvevri results in an amber, almost orange-colored wine. The wine is complex, and the generous amount of tannins result in the wine aging well into seven or eight years.
The Logvinari Tsolikouri boasts a fulfilling range of fruits and caramel balanced by spices and cedar through the long finish.
The Winiveria winery typifies the resurgence of Georgian Winemaking, which produces wines using the ancient Kakhetian methods. This method of Winemaking is believed to be over eight thousand years old.
This wine is made from the Kisi Grape. Once thought to be almost extinct, the grape has made a bountiful recovery. The grape is similar in appearance to the Rkatsiteli grape.
Similar to the Saperevi, the Kisi grapes are matured in qvevri pots with the skins and must. This results in a beguiling amber color. The nose is greeted with peaches and apricots blending with a gentle spiciness. The full taste is well suited to pairing with cheeses, particularly goat’s cheese.
The wine industry is constantly in flux, and happily, so Georgian wines offer the most beautiful combination—an ancient culture coupled with a youthful resurgence. I can’t wait to explore more of their wines.