Posts Tagged Rkatsiteli

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 Wild Weekend with Marks & Spencer

A Wild Weekend with Marks & Spencer


Marks & Spencer Go Wild

Well, not quite wild, but three wines from three very different countries, with one thing in common; they are all made by ‘natural’ methods, The first is macerated on the skins, the second and third fermented in clay amphorae with skin maceration. Whatever your opinion of natural wines, I think Marks & Spencer deserves real credit for trying them out. I can think of only a few independent retailers that stock such an esoteric range of wines, from the Mediterranean, Eastern and Central Europe in particular but from elsewhere as well. As for the three wines, they were all very enjoyable and worth trying out – the Fresquito in particular.

Fides 2014, Bosman Family Vineyards, Wellington, South Africa
14% and €22 from marks & Spencer

Skin macerated, naturally fermented orange white wine boasts the label. This has a slightly bready nose, and clean fresh pear fruits with a subtle breadiness and distinct orange and lemon peel. Dry finish. Interesting well-made wine that went down well with out roast chicken.

Fresquito Vino Nuevo de Tinaja 2014, Montill-Moriles, Spain

14% and €10.40 from marks & Spencer

If you are a fan of sherry, this is a must buy. Made from the Pedro Ximenez grape in a region next door to Jerez, this is a deliciously fresh light almondy, slightly earthy bone-dry wine – sort of a funky fino. I adored it. At €10.40 is offers fantastic value for money too. As the back label suggests, it goes perfectly with one of Spain’s gastronomic treasures – Iberico Ham.

Tbilvino Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2014, Kakheti Region, Georgia

12% and €14 from Marks & Spencer

Sort of qvevri light, a qvevri being the traditional clay amphora of Georgia. Not as funky as some I have tried, but enjoyable with light yellow fruits, good refreshing acidity and a light touch of nuts. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape. At €14 very good value.

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