Just a few weeks ago, the Blue Danube Wine Co. team was happy to visit the beautifully preserved Shavnabada Monastery and taste its traditionally made wines with winemaker Giorgi Abramashvili. Shavnabada Monastery is a medieval Georgian Orthodox monastery on top of a mountain of the same name. Located 15 miles south of Tbilisi, it was built in honor of St. George who, according to legend, wore a black cloak (shavi nabadi in Georgian) when leading the armies of the King of Georgia. The monastery has also been renowned for its wines made by the Monks and aged in traditional qvevris. Today, Giorgi Abramashvili is in charge of the winemaking with the help of the Monks. The monastery owns vineyards in the Kakheti wine region in Eastern Georgia that are organically farmed under the supervision of the Monks. It also uses grapes from nearby vineyards owned by friends. After the harvest, the grapes are foot trodden in the “Satsnakheli”, a traditional wooden press, and then poured into qvevris where they macerate with their skins. In the monastery’s marani (cellar), the wines can age in qvevri for many years, sometimes up to twelve years like the 2003 Rkatsiteli. The monastery has its … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #140: Shavnabada Rkatsiteli
Saperavi, one of Georgia’s oldest grape varieties, usually produces serious, deep-colored wines with high acidity and tannin. But two Frenchmen, Vincent Jullien et Guillaume Gouerou, have decided to transform the varietal into a fresh and fun wine Beaujolais-style. This Saperavi is called Lapati Super Ravi , a pun that means “very happy” in French. Aged in qvevri, Super Ravi is fully Georgian but with a French twist, as it is vinified using carbonic maceration like in Beaujolais. Whole clusters were fermented for 2 weeks with carbonic gas then destemmed and crushed after 2 weeks. The final juice was aged in qvevri for 6 months before being bottled. The resulting wine is lively and fruity with low tannins. Best enjoyed with friends and slightly chilled, it will make you cheerful and super ravi. Santé! Gaumarjos!
Today we had the privilege to meet Aleksi Tsikhelishvili at his home near Telavi in Kakheti, Georgia. Learning winemaking from his mother, Aleksi started making wines when he was 10-year-old. Today, he makes wonderful organic qvevri wines from Rkatsiteli, the “White King of Kakheti” as he calls the most established white variety of Kakheti, and from the more delicate Mtsvane, the “White Queen of Kakheti”. His amber wines are deeply colored, tannic, savory, and incredibly multilayed. They can also age very well. He also makes a unique red wine from the rare Jghia grape. The varietal is the opposite of Kakheti’s “Red King”, the full-bodied Saperavi. It has a thin skin and produces a lightly colored red wine with distinctive spicy aromas. It is a lovely wine, fragrant and very well balanced. Of course, we couldn’t leave without tasting his homemade Chacha—the Georgian grappa—and making several toasts to friendship. After several hugs, we were sad to go but we promised to come back so that we could taste Aleksi’s special Georgian recipe.
The Serbian Orthodox Monastery Tvrdoš is located in southeastern Herzegovina, 2.5 miles west of the old town of Trebinje and less than 20 miles from the Adriatic Sea. Dedicated to The Dominion of the Mother of God, it was built in the late 13th century above the right bank of the Trebisnica river on the foundations of a 4th century Roman church. The region’s winegrowing tradition dates back to the first hellenic colonies on the Adriatic Coast. The climate is submediterranean with hot summers and mild winters. The Herzegovinian karst soil is shallow, mixed with white crushed stones. These warm and dry conditions are particularly well suited to the native grape varieties Žilavka and Vranac. Vranac was introduced to South Herzegovina during the AustroHungarian Empire. The name “Vranac”, which means “black horse”, highlights the grape’s dark color as well as its strength and power. When grown on the rocky grounds of Tvrdoš created by a washout of the soil from the surrounding hills, Vranac shows distinctive acids and intense fruity aromas. Aged for 24 months in old monastic oak barrels, the Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac exhibits a purple red color and savory, earthy aromas on the nose. The palate has a … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #137: Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac
A couple of months ago, Cliff Rames, founder of Wines of Croatia and also Contributing-Editor-at-Large for The SOMM Journal, led the SommCon San Diego attendees though a Wines of Croatia presentation, pointing out the connection between Croatia and California and recalling the quest for Zinfandel’s origins: Geographically, Croatia appeared to be a plausible source and once researchers began testing, they found numerous varieties that shared Zinfandel’s genetic material—including Plavac Mali. After years of study, they traced an exact match: seven vines that were locally called Crljenak Kaštelanski (historically known as Tribidrag) in the Dalmatian region of coastal Croatia. Plavac Mali, native to the Adriatic Coast, is the offspring of Tribidrag and Dobričić. The region’s extremely dry conditions and lack of irrigation make viticulture difficult and Plavac Mali was preferred over Zinfandel. Cliff presented the Miloš Stagnum 2007 to showcase how well Plavac Mali can age despite its low acidity and higher alcohol content: Intriguing aromas of mint, clove, and mushroom. On the palate, notes of bay leaf and green figs mingle around a tannic core of light roasted coffee, mint, chocolate, and plum pudding. A fascinating wine considering its maturity. We just received the Miloš Stagnum 2008, also a very … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #136: Miloš Stagnum
Boom: Volcanic Wines Are Heating Up Around the Globe writes Wine and Spirits columnist for Bloomberg News Elin McCoy. As she was attending the International Volcanic Wine Conference in New York last month, she was wondering why volcanic wines were getting such a buzz recently. She asked master sommelier John Szabo, the author of Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power and organizer of the conference: Wines from the several types of volcanic soils—lava, pumice, ash, basalt, and more—can vary widely, but most share complex aromas, mouthwatering high acidity, and salty, savory, earthy flavors. The porosity of these soils stores more water, which contributes to the wines’ characteristic freshness and exuberance. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of romance: But the image of volcanoes may be the secret reason these wines are getting buzz. As Eric Guido, director of wine and marketing at Morrell and Co., emailed me: “Just think of the romance that surrounds wines grown in soils born of molten earth and ash!” She highlights eight volcanic wine regions around the world including Somló, Hungary’s smallest wine region, which lies on the slopes of an extinct volcano: Though the country’s volcanoes are no longer active, violent eruptions millennia ago … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #135: Apátsági Juhfark
We are looking forward to our new Dalmatian container, which is coming at the end of the month. It contains a restock of Brkić Plava Greda 2015, a wine that was just reviewed by wine blogger Nenad Trifunović, founder of the leading Croatian wine blog Dnevnik Vinopije (Diary of the Wine-Drinker): At first, there is a complete lack of common fruit sensations. The fruitful youth is peppermint, almost like a puffy Schioppettina … and completely earthy…Fully dry and succulent at 12.10% alc, more expressive and more durable than any other Blatina. I do not want to mention quality anymore compared to quantity … I want to talk about the beauty of the extract. Uncompromising as the words on the label: I will make wines like this or I will not make them at all. We’re thrilled to get more wines from Bosnia Herzegovina and Dalmatia so stay tuned and check our webshop later this month for new wines from BIBICh, Brkić, Dubrovački Podrumi, Gracin, Miloš, Monastery Tvrdos and Toreta.
When French eonologist Stéphanie Berecz founded Kikelet Pince with her husband Zsolt in Tarcal, Tokaj, she wanted a name that was easy to write and pronounce. She chose Kikelet, which means springtime in Hungarian or more literally “out-waking” (“ki” meaning “out”, “kel” is “to wake up” so “kelet” is technically “waking”). Kikelet refers to that moment when the young buds open up and the first spring flowers start blooming as the snow melts. Stéphanie told us when we visited the winery some years ago that she was enchanted by the fact that there was a Hungarian word for this moment and that she named the winery after it. So Spring is in the air and we start craving for brighter, more fruit-forward wines that can be paired with green salads, spring vegetables and fresh fruits. Kikelet’s Hárslevelű and Furmint wines are delicious Springtime wines, quite mineral and savory and full of stony fruit flavors. Also from Hungary, the Gilvesy Bohém Cuvée is a fragrant and zingy blend of Olaszrizling, Pinot Gris, Rhine Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, the Gallay Bistronauta White (60% Pinot blanc, 40% Zenit) is an aromatic and easy going bistro wine, and the Pfneiszl Zefir is a refreshing … Continue reading It’s Springtime! Megjött a kikelet!
Last month, the Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg, Dorli Muhr‘s flagship wine, was featured in the newsletter of Flatiron Wines in New York: Spitzerberg (German for “Pointy Mountain”), is one of those best plots. This “Mountain” is actually a leftover shoreline from an ancient sea, a 300-meter-high outcropping of limestone South of the Danube in Lower Austria, near the Slovenian border. And it’s perfect for Blaufränkisch, an early budding, late ripening, grape that needs a long growing season to ripen fully. Dorli Muhr enlisted Douro legend, Dirk Niepoort, to help re-establish her family’s old Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch. Today the vines are at least 50 years old and farmed organically. They vinify using some whole clusters and foot stomping, and without additives (even sulfur) or cultured yeasts, pump-overs or modern tools. The wines are finished with two years in used barrels. Muhr-Van Der Niepoort, Spitzerberger 2012: These grapes managed to hang on the vines until October! This crazy long hang time and wild temperature swings towards the end make for a fully ripe but still super-refreshing counterpoint to Samt & Seide, with rich yet tart fruit. Six years on, tertiary umami notes are starting to complement the primary fruit. “These are little gems … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #133: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg
It’s hard to believe that it was three years ago this month that Blue Danubians Eric and Frank were inducted to the illustrious Confrérie de Tokaj at a ceremony during the Great Tokaj Wine Auction. This year, the 2018 Great Tokaj Wine Auction is on Saturday April 21th at the Great Synagogue in Tokaj. It will feature more than 30 wines including dry Furmint, sweet and dry Szamorodni, and Aszú from Barta, Bodrog Borműhely, Füleky, Kikelet, Patricius, and Samuel Tinon. A percentage of the proceeds will be used to invest in the next auction and for the benefit of the Tokaj wine region. The Confrérie de Tokaj was formed in 2012 by 100 founding members —many of whom are winemakers — to promote the wines and gastronomy of the Tokaj wine region. The Confrérie organized the first Great Tokaj Wine Auction in 2013 featuring exclusive lots of high quality wine for sale at the auction. If you’d like to participate to this extraordinary event and taste some rare and unique wines, you can check the program and register here.