The weird and wonderful wines from the Republic of Georgia

Amiran's Marani
Amiran Vepkhvadze’s Marani or Wine Cellar

Wine columnist Allison Alevine also attended the Republic of Georgia Wine seminar in Los Angeles last June. Georgia was a wine-producing country that she knew very little about and as such, she was excited by this opportunity to explore what might be the oldest wine-making region.

I knew tasting the wines of Georgia would be different. But as they came around and poured the wines, a wine novice would question what was in front of them. Instead of the bright lemon or golden colors of white wines, the white wines ranged from yellow and golden to pale peach and orange. The red wines, however, are more the typical shades of purple, ruby and garnet that we are familiar with. The wines are made in large vessels called qvevri, which means “below.” These are concrete tanks built underground. If you are a fan of “The Amazing Race,” you will understand what I am talking about as this past season the teams were required as one of their challenges to clean out grapes skins from the qvevri at a winery in Georgia.

Several of our wines were among her favorites:

Orgo Kisi, Kakheti 2013 (fermented in gvevri, skin contact) – A hazy peach color, this wine had aromas of dried peach and dried flowers, and on the palate notes of black tea and pear.

Gotsa Family Wines Chinuri, Kartli 2013 (fermented in gvevri, skin contact) – This high-acid wine has herbal and black tea notes and has grippy tannins on the palate.

Amiran Vepkhvadze Otskhanuri Sapere 2014 – This wine is an intense ruby color with dark berry and dried floral notes, has firm tannins and high acidity.

Read the whole article here.

Orange Wine Is a Summer Day-Drinking Revelation

orange wine

When was the last time you heard someone shout “rosé all day?” Was it Fourth of July weekend at a friend’s BBQ, or maybe out on the patio at Everson Royce? America has undoubtedly hit peak rosé, but there is another beverage that falls between white and red on the color spectrum: orange wine.

LA Weekly wine writer Erin Mosbaugh recently attended the Republic of Georgia Wine Seminar at République LA in Los Angeles. One of the highlights of the seminar was Wine Guru Lou Amdur‘s presentation on orange wines. Curious about this unique winemaking style traditionally found in Georgia, Slovenia and Italy, she asked République’s beverage director Taylor Parsons about his favorite orange wines. One of them was Kabaj Rebula 2012 from Slovenia:

Jean-Michel Morel is one of the great practitioners of skin maceration, partially because of the time he spent learning the technique in the Shavnabada Monastery in Georgia. His Rebula is the best entry into his outstanding range of wines. Thirty days on the skins adds a wonderful textural complexity as well as spicy, woodsy flavors, and the wonderful natural acidity of the grape keeps everything fresh and balanced.

Another favorite was Gotsa Family Wines Mtsvane 2013 from Republic of Georgia:

The real deal from Beka Gotsadze. High-elevation vineyards and superb traditional Georgian winemaking. Seven months with skins in qvevri. Richly structured and dense with really heady aromatics, but unbelievably refreshing for such a powerful wine. Super cool stuff.

Learn more about orange wines, read the whole article here.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #35: Piquentum Rouge

Photo: Cliff Rames
Photo: Cliff Rames

French-born winemaker Dimitri Brečević is the founder of Piquentum in Buzet, Istria where he grows the three Istrian varieties, Malvasia, Teran, and Refošk. In an old Italian water cistern made in the 1930s, Dimitri aims to make organic wines that express the typicity of the terroir. His Piquentum Rouge 2012, a 100% Teran, was recently tasted by Cliff Rames, sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, a website committed to serving as a timely and reliable source of information about Croatian wines for wine advocates and consumers, professional wine buyers and sommeliers, agro-tourists, members of the international wine trade, and the global media. Here is his contribution:

100% Teran of Istria. Thick and viscous, mouth filling and vibrant–but only 12.5% alcohol. Savory with dusty plum, bright cherry, and cured meat notes. Perfect with Italian pasta, charcuterie, and grilled meats.

Learn more about Piquentum here.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #34: Bibich Lučica

Broken down by wine Instagrammer Michael Trainor aka @awordtothewine. Michael is a “high energy guitar playing glorified wino with an intense curiosity and passion for all living things” based in Los Angeles. Be sure to follow him and his poetry!

Photo: Michael Trainor
Photo: Michael Trainor

2011 Bibich Lučica

To the EYE: Lučica is liquid gold. Uptown elegance. The belle of the ball.

On the NOSE: working class rust, dried herbs. A bit of Vermouth.

In the MOUTH: elegant and graceful. Salty ocean spray. Broken skin of fallen fruit. Citrusy finish, lemony orangey zest.

Lučica was a stitch in time. Evokes memories. An example of a wine that may take you someplace you’ve never been.

Alen Bibich in his tasting room
Alen Bibich in his tasting room

Instagram review of Coronica Crno by Christine Havens

Coronica Crno
Photo: Christine Havens

Portland-based wine writer Christine Havens has this great review of the 2014 Coronica Crno:

My first Croatian wine, ‘CO’ or Coronica Crno is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Kraški Teran, a dark-skinned member of the Refosco family of grapes. I’m amazed at how gamey it is, with even a touch of rancio that translates as very-aged Iberico ham, along with dusty, clayey soils, roasted plums, dried orange peel, spice and violets. In the mouth, it’s quite silky with very subtle sweetness at the core, bolstered by moderate acidity and a subtle finish of dried herbs, perhaps bay leaf, and green olive. 12% ABV | Sample

Follow Christine Havens on Instagram here.

Experiencing the aromas and flavors of Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Two Blue Danubian, Gisele Carig and Catherine Granger, visited Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina last April for the first time.

Catherine: It’s been 2 months since our trip to Croatia and Bosnia and I still remember everybody’s kindness and generosity, the striking scenery, and of course, all these fabulous wines and local dishes we were able to taste.

Gisele: One of my favorite food and wine moments of the trip happened on the last evening. We were relaxing on the Skradin marina with Alen and Vesna Bibić, along with a few of their friends. Alen was very generously pouring us his 2015 Debit. The light freshness of the wine along with its slightly green almond finish was exactly what we needed after two long weeks of traveling through Plavac country. Then it arrived…the risotto dreams are made of! Skradin is famous for this particular style of risotto appropriately called “Skradinski Rižot”. Traditionally made by men, this risotto is composed of veal that is cooked down for around 8 hours, or until it completely falls apart. The rich meat stock is added in stages to the rice as you would with any risotto. The texture is amazing! The meat basically becomes a smooth sauce that envelopes the rice. All this meaty richness calls for a wine with a good amount of acid. Debit to the rescue! Even though this is a young white wine, Alen’s Debit sourced from 40 year old vines, has complexity which becomes apparent with a deeply flavored dish like this.

Catherine: Talking about risotto, I still remember the squid ink risotto we had on Hvar at Vina Carić with their 2015 Bogdanjuša. It was our first day on Hvar and we had visited the Stari Grad plain vineyards with Ivana and Ivo Carić. It’s a UNESCO Heritage agricultural plain colonized by the Greeks where they grow their white grapes. After the visit, we were quite hungry and looking forward to our lunch at the winery. The first wine we tasted was their Bogdanjuša. It’s an ancient variety that only grows on the island of Hvar and few winemakers produce it. As its name indicates (it means “God given”), it was traditionally drunk during Church festivities. What I found remarkable about the Bogdanjuša was its bright citrusy acidity and refreshing lightness thanks to its low alcohol content (11%). The black risotto that was served with it had an unctuous texture and rich fishy flavors, and together, they were super delicious.

I really love fish and for me, another highlight of the trip was the lunch we had a few days before on the Mali Ston harbor with the Miloš brothers Ivan and Josip. The town is located at the entrance of the Pelješac Peninsula and is famous for its oysters and shellfish. To our delight, the oysters were part of the menu as well as a perfectly grilled fish that we ate with a generous drizzle of Miloš olive oil. For the occasion, the Miloš brothers had brought their 2015 Rosé: dry, juicy, fruity, mineral, sourced from old organically farmed Plavac Mali vines, a quite hearty wine for a Rosé and perfect with the briny, iodized oysters.

Gisele: There was also the trip we made on our first day over the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina to visit Josip Brkić. Josip focuses on varieties indigenous to his region; Zilavka for white wines and Blatina for reds. His whole philosophy is centered around honestly expressing terroir and not interfering too much in the cellar. Tasting his wines is like meeting him: approachable, unassuming, but completely genuine and remarkable. We weren’t able to have a meal with Josip but a few days later we got to enjoy some traditional Bosnian food with Franica Miloš in Dubrovnik. One of the highlights of that dinner was burek, a light pastry filled with meat. Burek is a popular street food and can be found in a variety of shapes and with various fillings. We couldn’t help but think about how perfect Josip’s red Plava Greda would have been with the flavorful burek. The wine has flavors and aromas of fresh cherry with a distinct minerality. There is a certain savoriness to the wine that would complement the delicate spicing of the meat filling.

Visiting Dalmatia? Don’t hesitate to contact these exceptional producers:
Vina BIBICh
Vina Carić
Vinarija Miloš
Vinarija Brkić

#WineWednesday Spotlight #33: Muhr-van Der Niepoort Samt und Seide

This Austrian blaufränkisch has gotten a lot of praise in the press lately. And deservedly so! See what top wine publications have to say and try a bottle for yourself.

Dorli Muhr of Muhr-van Der Niepoort with a bottle of Samt & Seide
Dorli Muhr of Muhr-van Der Niepoort with a bottle of Samt & Seide

2013 Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

Wine Enthusiast:

There is nothing obvious about this wine: everything is subtle and elegant. The nose holds back and the taut palate only unfurls slowly to show a floral, fruity wine that reminds one of crimson peony petals as much as of dark, juicy cherries. yet there is nothing facile about this. it is the silky-smooth texture, however, that delivers the killer blow. A most sensuous, intriguing wine of great elegance. Little wonder: its name means silk and velvet. 92 points

Wine & Spirits:

Samt & Seide (“velvet & silk”) is a spot-on description for this blaufränkisch, a blend of young and old vine fruit. It’s expressive from the get-go, the rich texture holding a wealth of fresh, frisky fruit. It’s how the wine lasts over the course of several days that proves it is more than just delicious, the minerality holding it firm as a rock while the breezy acidity blows over it with notes of herbs, spice and sappy flavor. This is one to buy by the case, as it goes quickly, but also will be interesting to watch develop in the cellar. 92 points.

Wine Advocate:

The 2013 Blaufränkisch Samt & Seide (formerly named Carnuntum) displays a very clear and very delicate, almost Pinot-like bouquet of ripe red berries and cherries, intertwined with fine mineral and spicy flavors. Medium-bodied and very elegant, this silky textured and fruity red reveals a nice purity, finesse and lovely vitality, with remarkably fine tannins. The finish is good and well balanced, which makes this a very food-friendly and gastronomic Blaufränkisch that should be drunk rather young. 89 points drink:2016-2020

muhr_dorli

#WineWednesday Spotlight #32: Füleky Pallas Late Harvest

Contributed by Colm FitzGerald. Colm was born in Ireland, grew up in Southern California and now lives in Hungary. He’s passionate about exploring new cultures and off the tourist-trail destinations. His blog, The Paprika Project was born from the idea of sharing Hungary’s rich culture and natural beauty with the world. Learn more about The Paprika Project in our blog.

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Photo: Colm FitzGerald

Füleky Pallas Tokaji Late Harvest 2012

Made from overripe shriveled grapes creating a sweet, but balanced wine. A great introduction for those new to Hungarian dessert wines. Sticky sweet, but with acidity, with hints of butterscotch and ripe fruit. I never understood what people meant when they said a wine had the taste or smell of “cut straw” or “cut grass”. Now I know. Long finish of residual sweetness. Delicious.

Photo: Colm FitzGerald
Photo: Colm FitzGerald

You can read about Colm’s full visit to the Füleky estate here.

Is Korčula’s Pošip the Arbor Gold of Game of Thrones?

Toreta Posip
Drinking Pošip in Smokvica, Korčula

“Far be it from me to keep you from the piss tasting,” said Leo. “Myself, I prefer the taste of Arbor gold.” A Feast for Crows By George R. R. Martin

I have been exploring Westeros—the world of the TV show Game of Thrones—for many years: first with my imagination through the books and the show, and more recently physically. During a recent trip to Croatia where we visited producers, we luckily were able to discover some of the show’s filming locations. But there was something I also wanted to do in Croatia: find out what the wines of Westeros—an Arbor gold, a Dornish sour red—taste like. Especially Arbor gold, considered to be the finest wine in all the Seven Kingdoms.

So as we were driving around Dalmatia visiting producers, we happily recognized some of the Game of Thrones filming sites: the Red Keep and the stairs to the Great Sept of Baelor in Dubrovnik, the Diocletian’s Palace in Split where Daenerys chained her dragons in the basement, and then I think I found Arbor gold: it was in Korčula and the wine was Pošip.

Gisele in Dubrovnik
Spoiler Alert: Victorious Missendei AKA Gisele in Kings Landing

The Geography

The Arbor is an island off the southwestern coast of Westeros, separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. A major wine producer, it’s the seat of House Redwyne whose sigil is a grape cluster. And you see, Korčula is also an island that lies off the Dalmatian coast, separated from the Pelješac peninsula by the narrow Strait of Pelješac.

Korcula map
Island of Korčula

Korčula has a long wine growing tradition going all the way back to the Greeks. Before phylloxera reached Dalmatia in 1925, the whole island was covered with vineyards and the grapes and wines were sold on the international market to phylloxera-ravaged countries. Nowadays, and especially since the 1991-1995 war, several of these vineyards with their dry stone walls are being rebuilt and replanted.

posip vineyard
Pošip vineyard on Korčula

Whereas the rest of Dalmatia is mostly known for its red wines, Korčula is renowned for the quality of its white wines: the rare Grk, Maraština, also known as Rukatac, and Pošip, the most famous.

Pošip (po-ship), a Korčula native, was the first Croatian white wine with a protected geographical origin, which was granted in 1967. The name may come from the Croatian words šipak (pomegranate) and po (under). Supposedly, the first Pošip vine was found growing under a pomegranate tree. It was discovered in the second half of the 19th century near the inland village of Smokvica by a farmer called Marin Tomašić Barbaca, nicknamed Caparin. The story says that Marin Tomasic Barbaca noticed the grape growing wild while cutting firewood and was attracted by its unusual but pleasing aromas. He made cuttings for its own vineyard and then neighbors made cuttings from his plants. The first recorded Posip wine was released in 1880. There is now a monument honoring Pošip and Marin Tomašić Barbaca at the site of the discovery.

The Wine

“Sansa dutifully lifted the goblet with both hands and took a sip. The wine was very fine; an Arbor vintage, she thought. It tasted of oak and fruit and hot summer nights, the flavors blossoming in her mouth like flowers opening to the sun.” A Storm of Swords By George R. R. Martin

We tasted our first Korčula Pošip at the Toreta winery in Smokvica. The place is run by Frano Banicević, a young winemaker and a soon-to-be dad of two. Founded by Frano’s great-grandfather, the winery has still the old winemaking and farming tools used at the time. While we were tasting the wines, Frano told us about how he liked the way his great-grandfather was making wine without fertilizers/pesticides, how he saw himself more of a traditionalist, and how he felt that his life was reflected through the vintages, becoming progressively more complex, as he was learning more about the land and the grape.

In toreta vineyard
Our team Gisele, Frank, and Marcy in the vineyard with Frano Banicević and his sister Martina

We first tasted the 2015 Toreta Pošip Special, a refreshing and well balanced wine (12.8% alcohol) with notes of citrus and mediterranean dried herbs. As the lobster on the label indicates, it’s the perfect seafood wine and perfectly accompanied the lovely seaside lunch of grilled fish and octopus that we had later with the rest of the Banicević family.

Grilled fish
Grilled fish and octopus with Toreta Pošip

Then we tried the 2015 Toreta Pošip Premium and I was impressed by the wine’s deep Arbor-gold-like color and hot-summer-nights-like aromas. With 13.2% alcohol and sourced from older vines, this is a richer Pošip, showing great texture and complexity without losing its balance, freshness and minerality. But words are wind: it’s time for you to try a Korčula gold and explore the multiple facets of Pošip.

toreta_posip_premium
Toreta Pošip Premium

#WineWednesday Spotlight #31: Kindzmarauli Marani Original

Continuing our celebration of Georgian wine month with Kindzmarauli Marani Original semi-sweet saperavi. The wine has been getting plenty of well deserved attention this month. Here are two independent reviews of the wine. One is by Tara Q. Thomas, Eastern European wine critic for Wine & Spirits Magazine, and the other is a video by James the Wine Guy, San Francisco-based wine vlogger.

Kindzmarauli_Original

Kindzmarauli Marani Original 2014 (Best Buy) 90 points

This saperavi is made in the traditional semi-sweet style but its not at all cloying. Rather, it tastes like wild cherries, from the leaves to the pits, intense in their clarity, then fades into a steaky, cedary savor. Its like the red version of a good Spätlese riesling, the sweetness serving to bolster flavor, and balance the strong acidity. And like a good Spätlese, this can go with a wide range of foods, in this case from grilled eggplant to seared steak to chunks of dark chocolate. -Tara Q. Thomas, Wine & Spirits Magazine June issue

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Review is on the top far right

Now enjoy the video review by James the Wine Guy. He gives the wine 92 points citing its versatility at the table and the fact that it’s “not cloyingly sweet” as part of the wine’s charm.