While travel memories pierce the thoughts of a pandemic afflicted world, adventure in travel is safest through sips. Georgia, the country… not the U.S. state, is situated in the Caucasus region at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Think Black Sea, north of Russia, south by Turkey and Armenia, and east by Azerbaijan, and some 500-plus unique grapes to produce exotic and captivating wines.
No longer the underdog and, in fact, trending as a top wine destination, Georgia has come a long way since archeologists first discovered clay vessels of ancient wine-making traditions. Those vessels, referred to as Qvevri, included grape seeds that date back to 6,000 B.C., by the way.
One of the best-known wine regions is within the district of Telavi, in the village of Tsinandali. A few sips of Sun Wine 2018 Tsinandali ($16) takes me on a palatable journey to the Telavi and Kvareli area of Kakheti, where Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes produce a pale, white dry wine. The bouquet is a distinct licorice root, or perhaps anise, but the taste is altogether different.
Let’s start with the Rkatsiteli grape. Before its fall, Rkatsiteli fermented in a Qvevri was popular in the Soviet Union. This white wine grape is blended with Mtsvane, which translates to “young and green,” specific to the grape’s coloring. These two grapes are matured for at least two years to create a complexity between aroma and taste, and a crisp acidity. It’s best paired with fish and cheese.
A 2018 Mtsvane ($16) is next, so now the notes of this grape stand out. A honeysuckle bouquet leads to a pear, green apple, and citrus palate, and it reminds me of a Riesling. Recommended pairing for this white wine is with chicken, seafood, and green salad.
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Moving to the reds…
A 2018 Saperavi (translation: “to give color”) is made with 100% Saperavi grapes. An immediate smoky, cherry bouquet leads to a fabulous pomegranate flavor for this medium bodied dry red wine worthy of more than its sale price of $17. Paired with grilled steak or lamb, you can’t go wrong. Oh, and smoked Moroccan olives are a nice pairing, surprisingly so.
Another version of Saperavi is in a bottle of 2018 Sun Wine Mukuzani. The difference is the location of the vineyard, which is in Mukuzani, where Saperavi is typically aged in oak casks for about three years. This wine is a bit young, with a bouquet of slight oak and rich berries. Any hearty vegetable dish, meat and cheese will work with this wine, which is priced around $18 a bottle. I’d suggest leaving it for at least one year to see what complexity results.
Last, but not least, is the exotic version of a semi-sweet red wine. This is a 2018 Kindzmarauli that surprises and delights my palate. Oh, sweet pomegranate! Priced around $18 a bottle, best enjoyed with a fudge brownie, cheese or fruit.
The price for each of these wines is surprisingly low for the quality and exotic flavors sure to send you on a virtual journey to the exotic wine country of Georgia. I do hope to taste some wines made in those historic clay pots, as this is certainly a case where one hopes history repeats itself… again and again.