Savour­ing one of the world’s old­est wine­mak­ing re­gions


A sip of Ge­or­gian wines

Ge­or­gian wines may be a rel­a­tive rarity in this part of the world, but this coun­try tucked away in the stun­ning South Cau­ca­sus moun­tain ranges of Eastern Europe is con­sid­ered by some as the ‘birth­place’ of wines. In­deed, wine­mak­ing has a long, il­lus­tri­ous his­tory in Ge­or­gia—ar­chae­ol­o­gists dis­cov­ered wine residue in ce­ramic jars that date back some 8,000 years. But for most of that, Ge­or­gian wines did not travel too far from its bor­ders. It was only in re­cent years that Ge­or­gian wine pro­duc­ers are tak­ing their wines fur­ther afield, in­clud­ing to China, where they en­joy more than 100 per cent growth an­nu­ally.

Mi­cro­cli­mates vary ac­cord­ing to re­gion, but in gen­eral, Ge­or­gia en­joys ideal wine­mak­ing con­di­tions with fairly mild weather—sunny short sum­mers and frost­free win­ters. The coun­try is also awash with myr­iad in­dige­nous va­ri­eties un­known to much of the in­ter­na­tional wine drink­ing fra­ter­nity, such as Rkat­sitelli, mean­ing ‘red stems’, a thick-skinned white va­ri­ety that make wines with high acid­ity and ag­ing po­ten­tial; and Saper­avi, prob­a­bly Ge­or­gia’s most pop­u­lar red va­ri­ety fea­tured in many of the coun­try’s more es­tab­lished red wines.

Tra­di­tion­ally, wines are pro­duced in Ge­or­gia by seal­ing the must in mas­sive am­phora-like clay ves­sels lined with beeswax known as qvevri. Qvevri vary in size; some can hold up to 3,000 litres. Th­ese hulk­ing eggshaped ves­sels are then buried in the ground any­where from a few months to sev­eral years for the wines to ma­ture. White wines pro­duced this way tend to show unusu­ally high tan­nins due to the ex­ten­sive skin con­tact, and can some­times wear an or­angey hue.

Ac­cord­ing to Giorgi Sikharulidze, the chief spe­cial­ist of mar­ket­ing at the Na­tional Wine Agency, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture of Ge­or­gia, qvevri wine­mak­ing is still thriv­ing in Ge­or­gia. “As this tra­di­tional method of wine­mak­ing re­quires much more work than mod­ern, Euro­pean-style wines, it ac­counts for ap­prox­i­mately just five per cent of to­tal wine pro­duc­tion,” he ex­plains.

Sin­ga­pore trade part­ners and me­dia got a taste of Ge­or­gian wines dur­ing a spe­cial trade lunch in Au­gust, held as part of trav­el­ling fes­ti­val held in Sin­ga­pore, Shang­hai, Hong Kong and Ma­cau.

Com­pared to French-style wines, they tend to be sweeter on the palate and more rus­tic with plenty of fruit. High­lights in­clude the Ba­gra­tioni Rouge NV, a semi-sweet red sparkling made with Méthod Char­mat; the fresh crisp straw-coloured beauty Château Mukhrani Re­serve Royale 2013 made from in­dige­nous va­ri­ety Goruli Mtsvane, which won bronze in the In­ter­na­tional Wine Chal­lenge held in Lon­don ear­lier in May; and the Mil­diani Mukuzani 2014, a low al­co­hol dry red made with Saper­avi that is fresh on the nose, with a hint of black­cur­rants on the nose and smooth tan­nins.

Above The for­mer Soviet repub­lic lies at the in­ter­sec­tion of Europe and Asia; (in­set) Qvevri—clay ves­sels used for tra­di­tional wine­mak­ing in Ge­or­gia

Be­low Some wines sam­pled at the trade tast­ing

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