Shumi Zigu – A Georgian “Port” wine made from more than 300 native grape varieties
The Shumi Winery sits in the appellation of Tsinandali within Georgia’s largest wine region, Kakheti. The specialty of the appellation is a dry white wine of the same name. We visited Shumi on our first trip to Georgia and were immediately impressed. They are a mid-size operation and everyone from CEO and wine maker to the marketing and bottling teams is extremely down to earth, friendly, and competent.
Shumi greeted us with a special tasting of wines and one of the most delicious meals during the trip. We sat in a beautiful garden setting enjoying kebabs grilled over grapevines, the freshest salads you can imagine, exquisite traditional vegetable stews, and heavenly bread, straight from the oven. Of course we were enjoying our tasting of the Shumi wines as well. Then a small bottle was brought out and we were simply told that it was a special wine the winery was trying out. What it turned out to be was “Zigu”, a field-blend of grapes picked from the winery’s experimental vineyard. This vineyard contains around 300 grape varieties, mostly Georgian in origin. The grapes are co-harvested and co-fermented, before aging in oak. “Chacha”, the Georgian word for grappa, a neutral spirit made from grape must, is added to fortify the wine just before fermentation is complete, providing a slight sweetness. It is dark red in color with aromas of almonds, wild berries, and caramel. Think Georgian-style Port.
Zigu is very versatile and you can really be creative in how you use it. During our visit we were accompanied by two food and wine professionals, Henry and Josh, from renowned restaurant Gjelina in Venice Beach, CA. Both exclaimed that Zigu would be perfect for cocktails after their first sip. They then proceeded to craft one on the spot, using herbs and other ingredients from our lunch. I suggest you try it on it’s own and also mixed into a cocktail to really appreciate the versatility of this one of a kind wine! For instance, Zigu is a great substitute for sweet vermouth in a Manhattan. Its relatively high alcohol (19%) and some residual sugar provide the added benefit of keeping it fresh after opening for an extended period of time. Just stick in the refrigerator and it will last at least one to two weeks.