The one-minute wine expert: Georgian wine

Drinks: Drinks

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

Georgian wine: saperavi red grapes on the vine

Georgian saperavi red 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.

Follow wine explorer Kate Hawkings as she uncovers the wines of Georgia and Armenia.

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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