I have been to a Georgian wine tasting recently. I was looking forward to it as I knew not much about the topic. I am sure everyone knows at least one famous Georgian, the late Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, or Stalin, but not much other would come to my mind.
In the Soviet era, after taking over the country in 1921, put quantity over quality, moved vineyards from the slopes to the fertile plains. Uprooted old vineyards and indigenous grapes and seized the land. Luckly, a lot improved since.
The start was quite promising with an outstanding quality traditional method sparkling wine (Bagrationi Rose Brut, 2013). It was excellent!
It was followed by 4 amber wines and 4 red wines. Amber really refers to the colour and these were in fact natural wines, orange wines or no-intervention wines made in qvevris. Qvevri is a large lemon-shaped terracotta vessel that is buried to its neck in soil. In these qvevris wine ferments and matures. The entire winemaking process is taking place in them with juice and grapes left on skin and even stems! As the presenter put it, ‘They just chuck everything in it! Grapes and leaves the whole lot, then do nothing with it. Just forget about it!’ Interesting insight. The grapes are used, are indigenous varieties like Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Chinuri (whites) and Saperavi (red).
I am still in the process of trying to appreciate natural wines as I like to keep an open mind, but I must admit I was not very keen on those complex aromas and exceptional flavours on the white wine front. Some of them were more palatable (Tbilvino, Rkatsiteli, Kakheti, 2016) than others, but it was difficult to facilitate as strong farmyard odours (Okro’s Wines, Mtsvane, Kakheti, 2016) or solvent and acetone aromas (Pheasant’s Tears, Mtsvane, Kakheti, 2017) overwhelmed the fruit, if there was any. Maybe it was just too much to my palate, untutored in quality orange wine. The whites were dry, fragrant, full-bodied, often with distinctive tannins and with quite a price tag. (£15 and upwards.)
The reds I found much more approachable. The inky Saperavi grape was a positive surprise. Dense, dark purple, spicy wine with dark berries and chocolate. (Orovela, Saperavi, Kakheti, 2008) It was truly great! Two others I found quite good, but again pricy too! (over £20) (Iberieli, Saperavi, Guria, 2017 and Okro’s Wines, Saperavi Budeshuri, Kakheti, 2016)
It was an interesting night, although I am still not sure about orange wines.