One Georgian wine-maker described the process of making wine as putting the earth, sunshine and your heart into a bottle. With that sentiment you can tell that Georgia is wine country. Where viticulture is passion. Where wine-making is in the blood. Made by families (not only wineries), and just as natural as picking up bread and milk from the local corner store.
Producing over 150 million litres of the heady stuff each year, the country has arguably one of the most formidable histories in wine-making. Still made the same way – in clay pots called qvevri – this is probably where it all started according to historians and is as authentic as it gets.
To promote this proud heritage a couple of years ago, each person passing through passport control at the airport in Tbilisi, the nation’s capital, received a bottle of dry red 2012 Saperavi wine. An estimated 47,000 bottles were handed out during the Christmas period to show hospitality to foreign guests upon arrival.
Now, that in our books is a class act.
Plus, health nuts out there take note. Another good reason to go with a Georgian wine is that they are free from any nasties. No additives. No chemicals. Just grapes, skins and ripened stems are used in a process refined over the last 8000 years. So you can count on quality.
But with 500 indigenous varietals to choose from, you may be overwhelmed.
So here are three of the most popular that make our wine list:
The most popular variety of grape used for whites is the rkatsiteli. Due to the prolonged maceration period with the skins of the grapes, the liquid produced is often a lovely deep golden colour. Pheasant’s Tears is a well-recognised vineyard by those in the know. Their rkatsitelis are dry and noted for their flavours of walnut and apricot with top notes of honey; perfect as an accompaniment to roasted chicken or duck. All of them aged in the age-old traditional qvevri method, so there is no flavour imparted through an oak barrel; allowing the real flavour of the grape to shine.
The saperavi grape variety is structured and bold. The small, artisan winery Orgo boasts an impressive portolio; consistently producing notable wines of this varietal using their 50+ year old vines. Their 2012 and 2013 Sapervari each earned 92 and 90 points, respectively, in Wine & Spirits Magazine – an impressive achievement. The 2014 vintage once again hit 90 but is a slightly softer version of the more robust 2013. Notes of sourcherry, blackcurrant and pomegranate mingle with some chocolate and spice hints.
If you after something sophisticated a chinuri may be for you. Mostly grown in the central region of Georgia, known as Kartli, the chinuri varietal tempts with its brighter acidity that can lean towards citrus and flavours of passionfruit and lime. Often served with lighter fare such as chicken and fish, rumour has it that it’s a total winner with vegetable samosas. Who would have thought? So if you angling to try one, check out the boutique winery Iago Bitarishvili. A pioneer in the organic vineyard department, their chinuri vintage is well-respected.
So there you have it. Three charming wines to add to the list for your next party.
Just remember, when a Georgian offers you wine, they are offering their heart.
Need we say more.