Does anybody remember that Dannon yogurt commercial featuring citizens of the (then) Soviet Republic of Georgia? If you do, like me, you’ve been around the block a time or three (although we’re youngsters compared to those aforementioned Georgians!)
Well, the Georgians have been busy in the subsequent years, building on a wine heritage which stretches back 8000 uninterrupted vintages. I had the pleasure of sampling a cross section of Georgian wines recently and was blown away by the quality, the value, and the unique character of Georgian whites, reds, rosés and sparkling wines. The Republic of Georgia is home of over 500 indigenous varietals. Over 90% of all wine grapes are grown on family farms and wine accounts for 5% of all Georgian exports. in a post-Soviet world, wineries have been updated to produce modern world class wines as well as resurrecting its ancient winemaking tradition. Many wines are made in a millennia old tradition in a ‘quervi’, a clay vessel used to ferment and store wine. These wines are made in a very natural way with indigenous yeast, and extended skin maceration and stem contact, placing them in the arena of natural ‘orange wines’ which are enjoying a spurt in popularity.
Many of these wines can be assertive and perhaps a little off-putting at first approach. They are also wines of great depth and complexity that force us to think (the polar opposite of easy drinking). One of my favorites is a 100% Chinuri (an indigenous thin skinned white grape perhaps better known in the west for its use in sparkling wines of the region) produced by Iago’s Wine. Iago Bitarishvili believes that nature and ‘quervi’ make the wine and that man is just the facilitator. This is quite a common view in the region. Iago’s dry still Chinuri 2010 is quite delicate for a ‘quervi’ wine. It offers pleasant spice notes up front without overpowering, and it has an almost perfumed quality.
Wine Man Ltd. is a family-owned winery founded in 1998 by Alexandre I. Jorjadze. The Jorjadze family has a long history in Georgian winemaking. The Wine Man Ikhalto 2010 is a very nice example of more modern wine out of Georgia. The Ikhalto is a dry red blend of 50% Saperavi (one of Georgia’s most ubiquitous indigenous red grapes) and 50% Cabernet Franc. This wine is a delicious, rich medium to full body red with nice concentration of fruit and balance for a very reasonable price.
While Georgian wines are not yet commonplace on wine lists or on store shelves, they are growing in popularity as the public becomes more aware of them and what they have to offer. My suggestion is to keep an eye out for the wines of Georgia, and try as many as you can when the opportunity presents itself. You will be happy you did!
Iago’s Wine Chinuri
Country: Republic of Georgia
Producer: Iago’s Wine
Sugg. Retail: $17
Wine Man ‘Ikhalto’
Country: Republic of Georgia
Producer: Wine Man LTD
Varietal: 50% Saporavi, 50% Cabernet Franc
Sugg. Retail: $15