Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thanks WBC11 - Georgia Wines Are on My Mind - Again

Another wine we found interesting during the WBC11 Speed Tasting was the 07 Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi - which resurrected our fascination with Georgian wines. For, the Republic of Georgia is the cradle of wine making, as evident by the 4,000 to even 8,000 year old wine making equipment unearthed by archaeologists in the country. We are talking Stone Age winos. Many etymologists even consider the modern generic word “wine” to be derived from the ancient Georgian word “gvino”. And what is equally fascinating is that contemporary wineries are using the same indigenous grapes as these early winemakers. We are talking Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Mtsvani, Ojaleshi - wine grapes tasted by Jason and the Argonauts, Homer, Alexander the Great, Apollonius of Rhodes, St. Nino - thus when tasting Georgian wines - you're tasting history.

And its no wonder that the Republic of Georgia is the birthplace of wine civilization. It's geography is well suited for grape viticulture. Extreme weather is rare; winters are frost free; summers are sunny; and the Black Sea provides a beneficial micro-climate. The largest grape producing region is Kakheti located in the eastern end of the country. This region produces 70% of the country's wine and, understandably, houses some of the largest wineries: Teliani Valley, Telavis Marani, Tbilvino, Kindzmarauli Marani, Badagoni and Chateau Mukhrani. Other noteworthy wine regions are Racha-Lechkhumi, Kartli, and Imereti. Racha-Lechkhumi is currently home to semi-sweet wines such as Khvanchkara, Usakhelouri and Tvishi. The Kartli region is also termed "The Heart of Georgia" because of its central location and the home of the ancient and modern capitals - Mtskheta and Tbilisi. Both Kartli and Imereti are known for their sparkling wines and the later also producing the red wines Oihanuri, Sapere and Saperavi.

The country is home to over a dozen indigenous wine grapes. Rkatsiteli is the most important white variety and at one time was the third most planted varietal in the world. Mtsvani is the next most important white and is usually blended with Rkatsiteli. Saperavi is the most popular red variety and produces full bodied, somewhat tannic wines suitable for aging.

Like the French, Georgian wines represent the name of the source region, district, or village. And many of these wines are blends, such as Tsinandali, which is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane. Yet some 100% varietal wines are available -- including the aforementioned 07 Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi. And like most Eastern European wine styles, many of the red wines are produced semi sweet - even Saperavi. (No wine snobs permitted in the South Caucasus.) And fortified wines are very popular.

Rkatsiteli seems to be my favorite of the Georgian grape varieties and at one time was the third most planted varietal in the world. Thanks to Dr. Konstantin Frank, Dennis Horton, and Jack and Charlie Tomasello, it has migrated to the United States and is now available at Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars, Horton Vineyards, and Tomasello Winery. The wines possess a recognizable spicy character that is balanced by citrus flavors and refreshing acidity.

But what about the 07 Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi? I really can't recall - even after 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sips at #606. I did note, however, that the vineyards were once owned by a major Royal Dynasty - The Princes of Mukhrani. History and Georgian wine are intertwined.

For further research visit any of the linked wineries or check out the Georgian Wine House. Georgian wines will remain in my mind for quite some time.

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