Grape Expectations: Saperavi

You’d certainly be forgiven if this is the first time you hear about Saperavi (I must admit, having written this column for quite some time I am starting to feature some rather obscure grape varieties!). Saperavi is the most planted red grape variety in Georgia. Georgia is the world’s oldest wine producing country (over 6000 years of history!) but we are only recently seeing the quality it is capable of producing, thanks to the previous Soviet emphasis on quantity of production over quality.

The Georgians seem to have set their sights on the UK Independent Wine Merchant trade as the best fit for their often unusual and frequently delicious wines. Lucky us, I say!

Saperavi is what is known as a teinturier variety. This is a rare kind of grape which not only has red skin but also red flesh. As such, the wines it produces are beautifully deeply coloured. While Saperavi comes in many different guises, it often reminds me of a Sangiovese or a Malbec. Many Georgian reds are produced in earthenware pots known as Qvevri, which are buried underground during the winemaking process. This is said to create a smooth, soft, end result due to the better thermal stability. Others are made in more modern styles, using stainless steel or oak barrels.

Shumi Winery Saperavi, Kakheti Region, Georgia – Complex with a palate of black cherries and blackberries, with underlying earthy notes and savoury spice.