Georgian Wines with Sarah Abbott MW

Last week, under the guidance of Sarah Abbott MW, we tasted six delicious, fascinating and intriguing wines from one of the world’s oldest wine making regions – the country of Georgia. A region the size of Scotland, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by Russia and to the south by Turkey and Armenia, it produces crisp whites, grippy amber expressions from skin contact and ripe soft fleshy reds.

Baia’s Wine Tsistka, Tsolikauri Krakhuna Qvevri, 2020

First, we tried this blend of three grapes from winemaker Baia Abuladze’s vineyards in western Georgia: Tsitska, Tsolikouri and Krakhuna. Together they give balance, softness and crispness to this dry fragrant white wine. Aromas of white flowers, delicate citrus and a whiff of honey and persimmon, together with a soft citrus and nuttiness integrated beautifully on the palate. A little skin contact takes place to offer additional texture, but special care is taken to avoid any harshness by picking carefully and avoiding any imperfections in the fruit. I found it beautifully refreshing with a sleek long finish. It’s a great introduction into the world of Georgian skin-contact wines.

Anapea Village Mtsvane Amber, 2018

Made in traditional qvevri – large earthenware vessels buried into the ground – this orange wine is fermented for seven months, before being left to mature naturally. It is then bottled and left to settle for a minimum of three months. Certified organic, it’s a low intervention wine that is bottled unfiltered and unfined. It has beguiling aromas of saffron and greengage and a delicious savouriness on the palate, again from delicate skin contact, combined with the softness of apricot and peach. Nice grip and a lingering fruit finish.

Shumi Winery Khikhvi Qvevri, Kakheti Georgia, 2018

This seductive and opulent amber-hued orange wine is produced from grapes harvested in the hot, eastern Khikhvi region and fortified with pomace for six months. It radiates a perfume of orange, papaya, ripe pair, white cherry and hint of smoke. A low dose of residual sugar softens the tannin and a subtle puckering on the tongue from gentle skin contact carries the flavours to a long elegant finish.

Gvantsa’s Otskhanuri Rose Qvevri, 2019

Made by Gvantsa’s Abuladze, Baia’s sister, from free run juice from the native grape variety Otskhanuri Sapere. Fermentation takes place again in qvevri pots, giving this wine a delicious creamy texture. It has bright raspberry, strawberry cherry and crunchy cranberry aromas and flavours plus a nutty peppery spice on the palate. Very clean wine, unfiltered, with a refreshing acidity and long lingering finish. It could pair beautifully with halloumi and Mediterranean vegetable dishes.

Gvantsa’s Aladasturi Qvevri, 2019

This medium-bodied red wine is made from 100% Aladasturi, from the small village of Obcha in the Imereti region, in central Georgia.

Unfiltered, with a silky texture, it has fragrances of violets and cherry and with an elegant light grip. Then there is black cherry and black pepper on the palate. Aladasturi translates as ‘god is happy!’ which clearly rubs off on this wine!

Shumi Winery Saperavi, Kakheti Region, 2020

This red is made from 100% Saperavi, a grape grown in Georgia’s Tsinandali micro-zone in the eastern part of the country in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. The grape is unusual, as it is a teinturier variety: the grape flesh is dark rather than white. Fittingly, its name ‘Saperavi’ translates as ‘to dye.’ The wines are intensely coloured, full-bodied and contain high natural acidity. The palate is complex with notes of black cherries and blackberries, underlying earthy notes and a savoury finish. Lovely accompaniment to Gozitan ravjul (cheese infused pasta) or barbecued dishes. Delicious.