Too busy to read For The Love Of Wine? The one-minute wine expert is here to explain Georgian wine. Read. Absorb. Feel smug. This article will self-destruct in 60 seconds…
There were once more than 1,400 grape varieties in Georgia; now there are around 537, although only 45 or so are grown commercially. Three-quarters are white.
White Georgian wine grapes
Rkatsiteli (roughly pronounced as ‘kats-ee-telly’) is the most widely planted grape, a workhorse white that can also show nicely-balanced fruit, spice and acidity when treated in the right hands.
Mtsvane (‘mtz-var-nee’) is a grape with a Gruner Veltliner-like charm: green and zesty when drunk young from stainless steel fermentation, but also capable of being tropical and exotic.
As well as being fun to pronounce Kisi (‘Kissy’) is wondrously perfumed, with floral and honeyed notes redolent of Sicily’s Zibbibo. It often also carries some spice which really suits the local food.
Red Georgian wine grapes
When it comes to reds, Saperavi is the commonest grape, its name meaning ‘dye’, which refers to the deep colour of both its skin and its juice.
Robust and versatile, it’s made into many styles, from pale and delicate like a whisper on a breeze, to full-on ripe blackberry fruit given muscle by a stint in oak. It has the potential to age very well.
Tavkveri tends to have a more cherry-ish voice, and has the distinction of producing fully female flowers so is planted alongside other varieties to ensure pollination. Like Saperavi, it is made into different styles of wine, characterised by a bracing herbaceousness.
You need to know, too, about the Kindzmarauli PDO. Made from Saperavi and (unfortunately) labelled as ‘semi-sweet’ or ‘semi dry’, this style really caught my fancy. Fermentation is stopped by racking early, leaving residual sugars of around 30g/l but with enough acidity to carry the sweetness off without being cloying.
Characterised by notes of clove, bay and dried citrus peel, they’d be great matches with something spicy and sticky from a char-grill – dude foodsters, take note.