We are continuing our “secrets” discovering journey, this time moving few thousand miles mostly east of Veneto, Italy, which was our last stop. Now we are in the fertile mountainous region called Caucasus. To be more precise, our destination is Georgia, a small country with a rich history (the subject of Georgian Wines was already discussed in this blog, but recent encounter with Georgian Wines convinced author that this subject is worth talking about again).
For the sake of this blog, we will of course focus on the part of Georgian history which relates to wine. For beginners, Georgia is widely considered a cradle of wine making. According to Wikipedia, wine production started in Georgia more than 8,000 years ago. With all due respect to so called “old world” of wine, that beats France, Italy and other European countries by about 7,000 years.
Of course, truth to be told, multi-thousand years of history don’t translate directly into today’s advantage. For instance, majority of the countries which existed thousands years ago are not even remembered today. If everything goes well, that long history can only translate into traditions – good or bad, but traditions are just what they are: “typical ways of conducting certain activity”, or “an inherited or established way of thinking, feeling, or doing”, according to the definition from Merriam-Webster.
Fast forward to the middle of 20th century, and Georgian wine making traditions came under attack by soviet regime and Georgian wine making industry became literally non-existent. Fast forward once again, to the last decade of the 20th century, and traditions came back into play, helping to re-born Georgian wine industry. Of course, once former soviet union collapsed and Georgia became independent, freedom had a “drugging” effect. Tremendous amount of mediocre (at the best) wine was produced, all in attempt to “get rich quickly”. This situation backfired, and Georgian wines went into “ignore” category without any chance to rise to prominence (disclaimer: these are observations from US-centered wine market).
Luckily, traditions, based on real, rich history and pride came to the rescue. Fast and greedy mostly disappeared, and real wine makers and businessman took their place. Those thousands years of history and traditions became multiplying force for skills, craftsmanship and ambitions, and now started bringing us world-class wines. It is still very difficult to buy good Georgian wines in US, you have to really know where to get it, but hopefully this situation will change. Hmmm, may be we don’t need that to change? Let’s keep it secret, so those in the know can continue enjoying first-growth Bordeaux quality wines at one hundredth of the price?
Time to talk about wines – after all, we need to put some substance behind the nice words. Let’s start with… Champagne? Err, Sparkling wine, of course, as Champagne can only come from Champagne. Enters Bagrationi 1882, which makes sparkling wines using traditional “Méthode Champenoise” for more than 100 years. Round, soft and creamy, with perfect acidity, bright and refreshing, this sparkling wine will successfully compete with any of the actual Champagnes and other sparkling wines. In the blind tasting (non-professional), 2007 Royal Cuvee was the best out of the 8 sparkling wines, including classic Champagnes (you can read about it here).
Moving along, let’s talk about some of the most unique wines I ever had a chance to taste. Pheasant’s Tears winery (as well as some others), produce wines using thousands-years old (talk about traditions) technology – the grapes are crushed and fermented for prolonged period of time in the clay vessels called Qvevri. The resulting wines, made from different indigenous grapes, such as Kisi, Rkatsiteli, Tavkveri, Saperavi and others, are very different from most of other wines. Both whites and reds show very nice tannins which come from prolonged contact with skin and seeds (no oak aging whatsoever), as well as great level of complexity somewhat similar to good Madeira. This wines should really be experienced, as words can’t do them enough justice.
Last for this post, but not least, I want to mention true world-class winemaker-made classic wines. You know, those wines which are happily associated with winemaker or lead producer, such as Michel Roland, Christian Moeux, Helen Turley, Andy Erickson ( Screaming Eagle) and many others. These wines are made by David Maisuradze out of the classic Georgian red grape called Saperavi. Both Mukuzani and Saperavi are truly amazing wines, with perfect layered dark fruit on the palate, perfect structure, powerful tannins and excellent balance. 2005 Mukuzani shows more tannins at this point (it was aged for 24 month in the oak), and while it can be definitely enjoyed right now, it needs another 10-15 years to truly shine. Get it, if you can!
Georgian wines came back to the wine lovers to take the place they really deserve, the product of love and obsession supported by deep roots and traditions. While not easy to find, they are definitely worth looking for. Make an effort, find the bottle, try it, and send me a “thank you” note later on, as I’m sure you will be inclined to do. To the wonderful wine discoveries!
Anatoli Levine, the blogger behind Talk-A-Vino is a Wine and Food (and Scotch) aficionado, experiences hunter, member of Guild of Master Sommeliers, technologist (mostly during day time), husband and father (not in the order of priorities).