Posts Tagged Georgia

Georgia on my mind: wine from the world’s oldest vineyards

From The Irish Times, May 6th, 2017

Every wine-producing country likes to boast about their long history but none can compare with that of Georgia, with the possible exception of its Caucasian neighbours. Claims vary, some suggesting 8,000 years, but certainly this is the genuine cradle of viticulture, with a culture going back millennia. The word wine may even be derived from the Georgian word “gvino”. It is argued that merchants travelling along the trade routes carried vine cuttings in their saddlebags to the eastern Mediterranean in order to have something to barter. The more romantic version has the vine being carried beneath the armour of every Georgian soldier, so that if he fell in battle, the vine would take root and grow. It was here that we humans discovered that grapes (from wild vines), stored in containers throughout the winter turned into wine. The Georgians began using qvevri (or kvevri), large clay vessels of various sizes, to ferment the grapes and then age the resulting wine. Uniquely, this form of winemaking remains a strong part of Georgian culture, despite the influence of the communist state. (Georgian wines were always the most highly prized in the Soviet Union, leading to rumours of counterfeit wines in recent years). Red wines made this way tend to be vaguely similar to our idea of wine, but white wines, made by fermenting and ageing juice, skins and pips together can be shockingly different, with a unique texture and tannic structure.

Conventional winemaking

There is conventional winemaking as well, usually still using Georgian grape varieties – the country has over 500 unique varieties. The vine and wine was and is a central part of Georgian religion and culture. and history. Apparently a lengthy multi-course meal, called a supra, is a traditional feast lasting many hours, led by a Tamada (a sort of toastmaster) who introduces topics, toasts and possibly even songs to accompany the food. Look out for Mixed Melodies, the Irish Georgian Youth Choir, for an introduction to the musical side.

Georgian wines have become hugely fashionable in London, New York and elsewhere, particularly those made in qvevri, largely thanks to the alternative “natural” wine movement. It is worth noting that some argue that the Georgians, with a couple of thousand years’ extra experience, tend to produce the finest orange (or as they say amber) wines. Our own choice so far is limited, although that may change following a large tasting held by the Georgian embassy in Dublin late last year. Anyone fortunate enough to travel to Georgia for a holiday should take a look at for information on wine tourism. If you want to remember two Georgian varieties, Rkatsiteli is one of the most common white grapes, and Saperavi a favourite red grape. Or simply enjoy a piece of history drinking any of the wines below.

Best buy: Tbilvino Rkatsiteli Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2014, €15 from M&S
Best buy: Tbilvino Rkatsiteli Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2014, €15 from M&S

Bargain wine: Tbilvino Rkatsiteli Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2014, Kakheti Region, 12%, €15

 An intriguing and very attractive wine: lightly nutty and spicy with orange peel and yellow fruits, medium-colour and racy acidity.

 Stockists: Marks & Spencer.

Tbilvino Saperavi 2014, Khaketi Region, 13%, €19.50

 A mainstream wine with smooth elegant, slightly earthy ripe red fruits. Enjoy with lamb.

 Stockists: Terroirs, Donnybrook.

Shavkapito 2014, Pheasant’s Tears, Karteli, 13%, €25

 Earthy tobacco and leather mingle with fresh damsons, ending with substantial tannins. Decant and enjoy with red meats.

 Stockists: Baggot Street Wines, Green Man Wines, Le Caveau.

Tsitska 2014, Nikoladzeebis Marani, Nakhshirgele, 11%, €28.95

 Lip-smacking savoury ginger spice and green apples. For the thrill seeker.

 Stockists: Le Caveau, Green Man Wines.

Posted in: Irish Times

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A Long Weekend in Wine

A Long Weekend in Wine

It was a long weekend if you include St. Patrick’s Day; that is my excuse for drinking so much wine. Some nice bottles.


Wiston Estate Rosé South Downs

Made by Irishman Dermot Sugrue, so we drank it on St. Patrick’s Day. Wonderful rosé with precise ripe raspberry fruits and developing notes of brioche. The label gives plenty of information; a dosage 8 g/l sugar; 57% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. Disgorged 12/2013

Triennes Viognier Sainte Fleur 2013 IGP Mediteranée

This is what business class customers drink on Aer Lingus. Light peaches and custard with a touch of vanilla. Nice well-balanced wine that went nicely with my gnudi. Retails for €23 in Kellys, Clontarf; Corkscrew; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Sheils, Malahide.

I am Didimi from Dimi and this is my Krakhuna 2013
Imereti, Georgia

Surely the longest title for a wine. Krakhuna is the local grape (but then you knew that) and Dimi is the sub-region, part of Imereti. Georgia, the cradle of winemaking, is making quite a name for itself. Look out for Alice Feiring’s new book ‘For the Love of Wine’ on Georgian non-interventionist wine. This wine is made in glass demi-johns with no skin contact. Fresh with clean mineral fruits and a nice funkiness too; lovely wine. I Coravin the wine and celebrate the start of the weekend with a glass every Friday evening. Available through Le Caveau in Kilkenny, and Green Man Wines and probably a few others for €33.

Wolf Blass President’s Selection Chardonnay 2010, South Australia


This missed the photo shoot above as it was hiding in the fridge. Good medium-bodied Chardonnay, with subtle tropical fruits on the palate, with a good lightly creamy texture and the merest touch of oak. Currently being phased out, but sells for €19.99.


Domaine Rolet Côtes du Jura Savagnin 2009

4.5 years in old oak without topping up or racking. This has sherry-like qualities with intense oxidised nutty flavour and a bone dry mineral finish. Magnificent complex wine that I drank over three evenings. The back label suggested drinking it with creamy sauces, (chicken with morels being a classic match) as well as local cheeses. I tried mine with hake in parsley sauce, which was surprisingly good, and with Comté cheese, also very good. Sadly not available in Ireland yet, although I hear rumours it may appear in 64wine over the next few months; they have other wines from Domaine Rolet.

El Pájaro Rojo, Mencía 2014, Bierzo

Part of a big Mencía tasting, this was a richer style of Bierzo, from the lower clay soils. It went through malo in new oak. Textured rounded dark fruits with hints of spice, this may not have the freshness of some Mencía, but it more than makes up for this with a lovely rounded texture. Very well priced too. €16.95 from Searsons, Monkstown.

S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2014, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley

Sleek smooth and concentrated dark fruits with a savoury touch and some perfectly integrated tannins. A gently purring, very cleverly made wine. Steve Pannell is one of the most highly regarded winemakers down under at the moment, having won the Jimmy Watson trophy in 2013, and was awarded Winemaker of the Year in 2015. €26.99 a bottle, imported by Liberty Wines.

Castello di Fonterutoli 2004, Mazzei Chianti Classico

I bought six bottles of this about eight years ago, as it was being highly touted in the press at the time. I have drunk two bottles, both fine, but had I paid the full €50 retail price (I got it at a discount) I might have been a little disappointed. It is rich and rounded with very good dark fruits, a touch of wood, and some acidity too. Maturing nicely with some development. As I say, nice wine, but lacking a little Sangiovese character.

Hans Herzog Spirit of Marlborough Merlot Cabernet 2005, New Zealand

I used this in a master class on New Zealand wines a few months back and coravined it. Mature, soft and leafy/herby in a good way, with ripe cassis fruit. Nothing like a Bordeaux but lovely interesting drinking. Sadly I don’t think this is available in Ireland. Hans Herzog is a Swiss winemaker/restaurateur who fell in love with Marlborough and moved there.

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