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
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!
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!
“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
Lapati Wines is the joint project of French-born Guillaume Gouerou and Vincent Jullien. The two men met originally at the Art Villa Garikula, a Center for Contemporary Arts in Georgia. Vincent was there to realize his first experiments of natural sparkling wine with grapes from the villa and Guillaume was invited as an artist. They completed their Marani (traditional Georgian cellar) in Sagarejo, Kakheti in 2015 and currently produce about 3,500 bottles. Natural sparkling wines comprise more than half their production. About half of the grapes comes from their own vines in Kakheti and Shida Kartli. The remainder comes from growers who are also farming organically. They only buy what is necessary to allow them to fully fill the four one-ton qvevris they have buried in the marani. They intend to eventually increase the production but not beyond 10,000 bottles as they want to personally handle all aspects of production. The Saperavi Super Ravi (in French, the word “ravi” means “happy”) cuvée is made by placing whole clusters of Saperavi from the village of Mukuzani into two qvevris. After sealing the qvevris with clay, the wine ferments for 2 weeks with carbonic-acid gas. There is not much compression in a … Continue reading Introducing our new Georgian producer: Lapati Wines
Sierra Dawn Downey tells stories through illustrating, writing, and photography and teaches about wine. She recently attended a tasting of Georgian wines at The Barrel Room in San Francisco and was particularly fascinated by the Shavnabada Rkatsiteli, a rich amber-colored wine made by monks from the Shavnabada Monastery that spent 9 years buried in the earth after 5 months of maceration: Ever since listening to @winefornormalpeople’s episode on Georgian wines, I’ve been incredibly curious to try some for myself. Thanks to the intrepid wine gurus at @barrelroomsf, I was able to travel to Eastern Europe via its vino and dive into the world of amphorae wines! I can honestly say I’ve never quite experienced history on my tongue and in my nose as I did with this flight. When I tried the amber-colored Shavnabada Rkatsiteli, made by Georgian Orthodox monks in Kakheti who age it for years in qvevris, it brought to mind creaking old stone-and-wood buildings decorated with decades of dust. Tree resin, herbs, treated wood. It was fascinating. She also tasted the Gotsa Tavkveri and the doqi Saperavi: Then it was on to the Gotsa Rosé of Tarkveri, the color of a vivid sunset in my glass–with the … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #104: Shavnabada Rkatsiteli
Another good review from The Wine Enthusiast Magazine for the doqi Saperavi: This red-violet-colored wine has a bouquet of raspberry and lingonberry. Velvety tannins create a backdrop for flavors of blackberry, cranberry, vanilla and fennel. Notes of cranberry shine through on the bright finish. 89 Points If you like dark, fragrant and full-bodied wines, you should try this Saperavi from the new doqi label of German-born Burkhard Schuchmann. Also, if you want to learn more about the different styles of Georgian wines, compare this doqi Saperavi, aged in a combination of stainless steel and in French oak barriques, with the doqi Saperavi Qvevri, fermented in qvevri in the traditional Georgian style. And don’t forget to cheer. Gaumarjos! To your victory!
Jeff Berlin of Oakland’s A Côté was recently interviewed by wine writer Tara Q. Thomas on selling glass after glass of Georgian wine. This is what he says about the popular Shavnabada Saperavi: the Shavnabada [a top by-the-glass pour]—anytime you’re able to say that a wine is made by monks in a monastery, they eat that one up. And it’s not cheap. But it’s a great wine, and also, it has an advantage because the wines have had a few extra years on them. That’s been really important even for me, to be able to see how these wines age. They change so much; they take on new personality and structure. It’s so rare to have the chance to taste older Georgian wines—it’s a combination of the culture, in which each person makes a small amount of wine and they drink it over the course of a year, and recent history; they simply don’t have much older wines to sell. Aging, however, does take the edges off the wine. If we could get more aged skin-contact Georgian wines, they’d blow people away. Find the whole interview here and check our comprehensive selection of Georgian wines in our webshop.
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 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 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 … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #31: Kindzmarauli Marani Original
Contributed by Christine Havens, Portland-based wine writer and former winemaker. Original review can be found here. A country with an ancient wine growing and winemaking heritage, Georgia is little more than a blip on the radar of the American wine scene. I hope that will change with time, as I have been favorably impressed by the wines I’ve sampled thus far. Credited as the birthplace of viticulture and even vitis vinifera itself, the country is home to some 500 indigenous varieties, the most widely cultivated of which are Saperavi and Rkatsiteli. (Some years ago, my former mother-in-law had planted a few rows of Rkatsiteli, a think skinned, bronzy-pink white variety that seemed oddly out of place with our more conventional rows of Syrah, Cabernet and Chardonnay. But that is another story, for another time.) The 2013 Kindzmarauli Marani Dry Red Saperavi offers up ripe, juicy plums, dried black cherries and earthy terra cotta notes. There is a pronounced but pleasant herbaceous note on the nose and palate, something akin to bay leaf or green wood intertwining a rather gorgeous structure trussed in firm tannins that are equally distributed across the palate. The mouthfeel of this wine is, in many ways … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #20: Kindzmarauli Marani Saperavi