“In Leningrad, back in 1990,” writes Wine & Spirits Executive Editor Tara Q. Thomas, “the Georgian bars were the place to be.” Nowadays, bars are everywhere in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, and the wines you have in your glasses “are anything but thick, semisweet reds. They come in all shades, from pale and fizzy to dark amber to bright red. They include such a panoply of grape varieties that keeping track of them makes my head swim. After 69 years of Soviet rule, the new reality, when it comes to winemaking, is that there are no rules.” There’re indeed no rules for the Wine Thieves, a negociant company founded by three friends Avto Kobakhidze, Givi Apakidze and Zaza Asatiani except get “The finest Georgian wine ‘stolen’ for you.”. The three friends bottle and sell the wines of small family wineries with no resource to market their own production themselves. Tara Q. Thomas gave 92 points to Wine Thieves’ amber-colored qvevri-aged Rkatsiteli: 92 Points. Avto Kobakhidze and Givi Apakidze worked with a grower in the village of Kachreti for this rkatsiteli, fermented and aged in qvevri with skins, and stems for about six months. Marigold-yellow, it’s a meaty, earthy wine with … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #163: Wine Thieves Rkatsiteli
For Food & Wine‘s executive editor Ray Isle, Georgia is “The Oldest Newest Wine Region in the World.” “Tasting traditionally made wine in Georgia,” he writes, “is like taking a trip back through those eight millennia.” But things have changed significantly since the Soviet era and many traditional winemakers are now bottling and selling their wines in Tbilisi and abroad. That’s the case of the Shavnabada Monastery just outside Tbilisi where the monks have restored the old wine cellar and are now making and exporting Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane and Saperavi in the traditional qvevri style. We’re in the cellar at Shavnabada, a Georgian Orthodox monastery originally built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 17th, shut down again in the Soviet era and reopened after that. Eleven monks live and work here. All around the stone building the boxwoods are in bloom, and the air is filled with their scent. Brother Markus’ cell phone rings—the ringtone is the brrring, brrring of an old-fashioned rotary phone. He glances at it and puts it back in the pocket of his robe. As to why they started making wine again, he says, “Georgia is a country of hospitality. When someone comes to your … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #157: Shavnabada Saperavi
“We’re on at least the third wave of orange wine,” thinks wine writer Jon Bonné in his article, The Insider’s Guide to Orange Wine, where he reviews the essential producers, wines, and vinification methods for this particular wine style. Orange wines, also called amber wines, are made from white grapes that ferment on their skins for a period of time. The result is a densely textured, amber-to-orange colored wine. This unique winemaking style was traditionally used in Georgia, Northern Italy and Slovenia and has recently seen growing popularity among wine lovers. Orange wines are now made throughout Europe and in the new world as well including California, Oregon, Australia, and Chile. One of the essential wines isted by Jon Bonné is the Gotsa Family Wines Chinuri, an amber-colored wine from Georgia, fermented on its skin in a clay vessel called qvevri: Gotsa Asureti Valley Chinuri: Beka Gotsadze’s winery is high in the hills outside Tblisi, and his wines—all aged in qvevri—are a very good reference point for Georgian wine, even if they aren’t wholly traditional. Chinuri is a relatively common white variety in the region, and there’s a creamy side to the ripe apple and persimmon flavors. If you’re curious … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #155: Gotsa Family Wines Chinuri
More than 500 varieties of native grapes. A multi-millennia-old winemaking tradition in clay vessel or qvevri. In fact, Georgia have been making wines almost forever. Then around 320 AD, Saint Nino of Cappadocia arrived in Georgia with a cross made of a vine and wine became a symbol of Christianity. Thereafter, wines has been playing a vital role in the celebration of religious events and rituals and is now an integral part of Georgia’s cultural identity and heritage. Over the summer, we received a new shipment of Georgian wines and what’s exciting about these new wines is that they epitomize the diversity of the Georgian production: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Kisi, Saperavi from Kakheti in the East, Tsitska and Krakhuna from Imereti in the West, Chinuri from Kartli in the Center, and a Alexandria/Mudzhuretuli blend from Racha in the North. Rkatsiteli is to Georgia what Chardonnay is to California. It’s the “King of Kakheti” as Aleksi Tsikhilishvili explained to us when we visited his cellar last May. It’s Georgia’s most widely planted and most popular white grape variety. It has great structure and spiciness and becomes creamy, nutty and tannic when aged in qvevri. We just received an organic qvevri-aged Rkatsiteli from … Continue reading Georgian Wines are Exciting!
The doqi Rkatsiteli Qvevri is Editor in Chief of SevenFifty Daily Erica Duecy‘s new Georgian friend: Doqi, my new Georgian friend of the mysteriously scripted label. True, I may not be able to read the Georgian alphabet, but here’s what I know about the wine: It’s qvevri fermented and aged Rkatsiteli with bright notes of apricots and orange zest, honey and baking spices, and an appealing tea-like astringency. To make these wine, grapes are pressed and then fermented in qvevri (clay vats) with the juice, grape skins, stalks, and pips. After macerating for several months on the skins, the white wine develops its amber color. Thanks @themaritimerepublic for the intro. We just received a new shipment of doqi wines from Georgia. You should try them out, there’re delicious. And stay on top of the wine news with Erica Duecy at SevenFifty Daily.
“I’ve been reading the Iliad recently.” At the Paris Review, Valerie Stivers invites us to grill and drink with Homer. A central lesson of the Iliad is the terrifying fragility of the things that bring us together, and the importance of safeguarding them. In that spirit, it becomes a wonderful book to cook from, and turns out to be full of scenes of communality where the Greek troops mark events of social and religious significance with feasting and drinking wine. To eat like Achilles, she invented an Homeric grilling-and-skewering technique with a boneless leg of lamb, wrapped in pork belly. But how to find wines that tasted like the ones mentioned by Homer? In the Iliad, we learn that the wines are coming from ancient regions like Thrace, a large area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east. She consulted with a couple of wine directors including Patrick Cournot of Ruffian Wine & Food in Manhattan’s East Village and found some startlingly delicious bottles that went perfectly with the grilled meat. Among them, the Gotsa Chinuri 2015: This wine from the … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #144: Gotsa Family Wines Chinuri
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.
Earlier this year, Cliff Rames, Contributing-Editor-at-Large for The SOMM Journal and founder of Wines of Croatia presented the wines of Croatia and Georgia at SommCon in San Diego. Here is his introduction to the Gotsa Family Wines Mtsvane: Using traditional techniques, the winery team ferments the white Mtsvane grapes on the skins with native yeast in amphora vessels (called qvevri) for nine months. holes are drilled in the amphora, and once fermentation is complete, the vessels are unplugged and the wine is gravity-fed into amphora below for an additional 16 months of aging. The resulting wine is bottled without filtration or sulphur. The versatile style of these orange wines allows them to easily transition from course to course. “There’s certainly enough tannin in this wine to go with stek,” said Jay James. “I kind of feel like I need one at the moment!” Tasting Notes: negroni-like aromas of driend Turkish apricots, orange peel, and hints of blonde tobacco. Tannic with flavors of burnt caramel and a slight hoppy quality on the finish. Beka Gotsadze lives in Asureti, an ancient village in the foothills of of the Greater Caucasus, about 30 minutes away from Tbilisi. Beka is a creative architect who … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #128: Gotsa Family Wines Mtsvane