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!
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
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
Patrick Comiskey, wine critic at the LA Times recently interviewed former wine director at République and the Hancock Park restaurant, Taylor Parsons: “The flavors and textures of the wines were unlike anything I’ve ever tasted,” says Parsons, 37, who like many sommeliers makes regular trips to the wine regions of France, Germany and Spain. “Very little of what they’re doing is reasonable by Western standards, but the wines are so expressive. And it’s all set in an incredibly ancient winemaking tradition where wine has penetrated deeply and completely into the culture, in ways that I had never experienced before.” Taylor Parsons is particularly fond of the 2004 Shavnabada Mtsvane: As delicious as it is unusual. Aged in qvevri for 11 years before bottling. Waxy, dense and totally intriguing — it tastes of walnuts and quince, honeycomb and dusty old books. Loads of tannin with plenty of freshness. To learn more about Georgian wines and check Taylor Parsons’ recommendations, read the whole article: Why one L.A. wine expert has Georgia on his mind. The country, that is.
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.
It’s a tall order to put together a concise sales pitch for the wines of The Republic of Georgia because the food, language, culture, grapes, winemaking, and even geography are all largely unknown to most of us. However, very few places have such a strong national identity tied to wine that is something more than just patriotism, it’s about hospitality, eating and drinking well, and doing so despite a nearly non stop bombardment of their land for centuries. Nestled between the Caspian and Black Seas, it has both subtropical and alpine climates, the tallest mountains in Europe (Caucasus), and yet is smaller than South Carolina. The biodiversity is insane with roughly 500 indigenous grapes and their Qvevri (Kartuli method) is one the most compelling techniques linking people with wine I can think of. It has even been added to UNESCO’s “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It’s a truly special place with hints of Iran, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Armenia and others, but has then melded, edited and created something unique. 8,000 years of unbroken winemaking using the same technique surely warrants giving these wines some attention. At the very least, please cook up some homemade Khinakli and Khachpuri, … Continue reading The Republic of Georgia – Everyone needs to go here
2003 Shavnabada Rkatsiteli from Kakheti, Georgia is one of those wines that really transports you to another place and time. Wine expert and The Vinguard founder Pamela Busch recently listed it as one of her Top Wines of 2015: An extinct volcano 2300 feet above sea level, Shavnabada is a mountain that has housed a Medieval monastery of the same name. It was restored in 1992 and the monks have been making wine on the property since 1998. Certified organic, they are old school and ferment and age the wines underground in amphora for years, 12 in the case of the Rkatsiteli. Every time I think of this winery, images of Sean Connery from In the Name of the Rose pop into my head. Amber colored, with toasted nuts, spice and dried stone fruits, one door of flavor leads to another – it’s pretty astonishing. This “astonishing” wine is made from hand harvested grapes under the strict supervision of the monks. The grapes are foot trodden in a traditional wooden press, and are not fined or filtered before being bottled by hand. The bottleneck is covered with beeswax from Shavnabada’s own bees. Interestingly enough they produce literally tons of wild … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #14: Shavnabada Rkatsiteli
Part two of our interview with Stetson focusing on introducing our new Georgian producers and some of the indigenous varietals to become familiar with. Read part one of our interview here. Let’s talk about the producers. How would you introduce them? S: I’ll start with Kindzmarauli Marani and Shumi who share a similar story. Both are larger, modern wineries, producing “European-style” wines. This means that instead of qvevri they use stainless steel and/or oak barrels. They are located on either side of the Alazani River, in Kakheti — Georgia’s largest wine region — within two major appellations. Kindzmarauli Marani is on the left bank in the Kindzmarauli appellation, known for semi-sweet reds. Shumi is on the right bank within Tsinandali, an important white wine appellation. Even though both are considered large wineries, there is so much care that goes into the wines. Instead of purchasing fruit, both source from their own estates. Both are also dedicated to Georgia’s viticultural future. You can find experimental vineyards at both estates with hundreds of varietals, both indigenous and international. The goal is to see which grapes are most successful in their conditions. It’s encouraging to see this interest in supporting Georgia’s rich viticultural … Continue reading Introduction to Georgia: Discussing Producers and Grape Varieties
“I like extreme life and extreme wine. No fancy hotel rooms, commercial style: this is not our life.” Jean-Michel Morel “Orange wine” has been recognized by US sommeliers and fine wine shops for more than 10 years, but has only recently become part of the wine drinker’s vocabulary. For the un-initiated, “orange wine” is not made of oranges. Its ancient production began in present day Georgia, which happens to be where Neolithic humans first domesticated Vitis Vinifera in pursuit of more and better wine. Historically, white grapes and red grapes were processed similarly: crush grapes, add to container, ferment, drink. Like red wine, “orange wine” can range from delicate to strong. This depends on the type of grape, the length of maceration, amount of oxygen, temperature of fermentation and so on, just like with red wine. Some “orange wines” are not actually that orange in color, making the term a little misleading. “Orange wine” is just wine in the Republic of Georgia between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, and Slovenia and Croatia between the Alps and Adriatic. Both areas are typified by their varied topography, climate, abundance of biological diversity and diverse native wines. In the early 90’s, … Continue reading Georgia and Kabaj