“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
“Crazy delicious, indeed,” writes Bon Appétit’s wine editor Marissa A. Ross. “And while I love French wines, Italian wines, and Spanish wines— honestly, all the wines—today Central European countries are the ones driving wine, and its culture, forward. They are fresh, invigorating, and mind-bending, proving that wine is constantly evolving and there is always something new to explore.” She recommends seven wild wines from Central Europe including the Lapati Kidev Erti Chinuri, one of her recent favorite bottles: This wine is buzzy in all the ways. Not only are Georgian pét-nats few and far between in the States, but this sparkler of the native white Chinuri grape evokes images of honeybees bustling around fresh citrus blossoms. Cloudy-dandelion in color, the Lapati Kidev Erti Chinuri smells and tastes like orange trees in the spring with wafts of cantaloupe, honey, and fresh laundry. With sudsy bubbles and bright acidity, pop it and you will be singing along with the chorus of Kendrick Lamar’s “Yah” in no time. Buzzin… This Georgian buzzy bubbly is a natural white sparkling wine made by two French natural wine makers Vincent Jullien and Guillaume Gouerou, who founded Lapati Wines in Georgia in order to make natural wines … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #127: Lapati Kidev Erti Chinuri
“If I may,” the Count interjected. “For a serving of Latvian stew, you will find no better choice than a bottle of the Mukuzani.” Leaning toward their table and mimicking the perfectly parted fingers of Andrey, the Count gestured to the entry on the list. That this wine was a fraction of the cost of the Rioja need not be a matter of a discussion between gentlemen. Instead, the Count simply noted: “The Georgians practically grow their grapes in the hopes that one day they will accompany such a stew.” The young man exchanged a brief glance with his companion as if to say, Who is this eccentric? But then he turned to the Bishop. “A bottle of the Mukuzani.” ‘A Gentleman In Moscow,’ By Amor Towles One of our customers called us recently, asking if we had any Mukuzani. “I’m part of a book club and we’re reading ‘A Gentleman In Moscow.’ We’ll be making a Latvian stew and we’ll like to serve a Mukuzani with it.” For sure, wines from the Saperavi grapes from the Mukuzani vineyard are considered by many to be the best of the Georgian red wines. Mukuzani is aged in oak casks for a … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #120: Danieli Mukuzani
“It’s no surprise Georgia produces good wines – it’s been at it a really long time,” writes Bryan Flewelling, wine director for three restaurants in Portland, Maine after tasting a selection of Georgian wines vinified in the same way they were 8,000 years ago. The standouts of the tasting were both produced by the Doqi winery, located in the wine region of Kakheti. One was an amber, or orange, wine made from Georgia’s most important white grape, rkatsiteli, and the other was a red wine made from Georgia’s most important red grape, saperavi. Both are vinified in the traditional Georgian quervi, large earthenware pots that are buried underground to stabilize the fermenting temperature throughout the winter months. The Rkatsiteli Quervi was the color of lightly steeped tea, the result of extended skin contact. When red grapes are crushed and the skins are left in contact with the fermenting juice, they turn red – most of you know this. When white grapes are crushed and the skins are left in contact with the fermenting juice, a practice that’s infrequent, the wine turns amber. It smelled of spice and honey and yellow raisins. I know that sounds dessert-like, but it’s not. Imagine … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #118: doqi Rkatsiteli Qvevri
Do the people of Georgia and Baltimore have anything in common? According to Michael Trainor @awordtothewine, they do. They’re both mentally tough and have a solid work ethic. For Michael, the doqi Mtsvane Qvevri 2014 is Baltimore’s perfect cultural fit: diverse, firm, salty, savory, yet with an elegant charm. It’s the wine to sip overlooking the harbor from Federal Hill: Growing up in Baltimore City is akin to fermenting on the skins, seeds, and stems. Step up and you’ll find that diplomacy comes wrapped in a fist. We may have a blunt edge, but our honesty and big hearts charm. . I’ve been thinking that childhood is fermentation for people. Fermentation in my neighborhood required that our mothers often filter our foul mouths with soap. I’m not joking. My friend’s mother made him wash his mouth out with soap. Unfortunately, he swallowed quite a bit too much and his mother had to take him to the hospital. I assure you this taught him nothing and his mouth was dirtier than ever afterwards. . . doqi Mtsvane may have been made close 6,000 miles from my hometown, but drinking this wine I have to imagine that the people of Georgia have … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #116: doqi Mtsvane Qvevri
In an attempt to spread our Georgian wings, we have added appellations, producers and styles. Bold, different wines of personality, tradition and irreverence that tease and challenge the palate in the best ways. First up is the tea and tobacco scented Bibineishvili Chkhaveri (impossible to pronounce) from Adjara in the south west, 5 miles from both Turkey’s northern border and the Black Sea. A numerically slight wine at 10.5% and dry, but it is compact, detailed and finely structured. From the West where sometimes wine is made without skin contact, we have procured some lip smackingly snappy tsolikouri and a tsitska/tsolikouri blend from the Wine Thieves. Rather than stealing, this band of Georgian wine lovers and friends turned negociants are nurturing mevenakhe (vignerons) that make their best possible wines and market them under a common brand. North of Imereti, from the mountainous wine region of Racha-Lechkhumi, cousins Paata and Shorena Pataridze are re-realizing their families historic role as winemakers. We imported half of the mere 350 bottles produced in 2016. The wine is mind-bogglingly smooth with delicate notes of forest fern, honey and the reddest of fruits. The 11g/l of residual sugar left after the fermentation naturally stopped, makes it … Continue reading New Georgia