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Friday, 2 July 2021

Georgian Wines With Swirl Group

Georgian wine tasting with Sarah Abbott MW of Swirl Wine Group

Not fully European, not quite Asian, Georgia is all things and nothing, a true borderland with a rich history where everything is quite new.

It is a tiny, ancient country sandwiched on a land bridge between Europe and Asia; a mountainous region, it has huge potential for oenological diversity with wine is made all over the country. The main regions to know are Kakheti and Karthi.

The country is surrounded by water with the Black Sea on one side and the Caspian on the other; to the South is Turkey, to the north Russia.

It is protected from the cold by the Caucasus Mountains; on its eastern side it is warmer and sub-topical, the western side is cooler due to the altitude and the moderating effects of the Black Sea.

Georgia has layers of history and feels like Vienna transported to Asia, in part due to being historically on the Silk Road.

Its wine culture is more reminiscent of France or Italy, a combination of gastronomy, oenology and lifestyle. Orange wines, often made in qvevri, are a big part of this, not least due to their food friendliness.

Georgia's wine culture is at once 8,000 and almost brand new; an independent country since 1991, it has moved away from the heavy-handed, old school styles popular in the former Soviet Union to something more sophisticated, international and European.

Qvevri are to Georgia what coopers are to France; artisan crafted vessels for the making of wine, qvevri are an ancient invention yet offer a solution to numerous challenges that has yet to be bettered.

Hand made from clay, qvevri are lined with beeswax to reduce porosity and provide a reductive environment for wine-making; qvevri are stored in the ground to regulate temperature.

Wines are fermented whole-bunch with natural yeasts; the qvevri is left uncovered with periodic punchdowns.

The size of the quevri also affects the temperature of the fermentation - larger qvevri ferment at a higher temperature due to the higher volume / surface area ratio.

Producing wines in qvevri is very labour-intensive and accounts for only about 10% of Georgian wine output.

The whites

Churi Chinebuli, Churi Chinebuli 2019, white - 12.5% Seeking importer

delicate florality, orchard fruits and white peach; pure and precise; very elegant and long - think Burgundian or Swiss in style

Baia’s Wine Baia's Krakhuna 2020, qvevri white - 13% Imported by: GvinoUK, Taste of Georgia

some skin contact: fresh, delicate and creamy almondy, orchard fruits, white peach and citrus; some delicate white flowers with honey and apricot

The amber wines

Ori Marani, Mariam 2020, qvevri amber - 12% Importer: 266 Wines

from a French winemaker using a blend of grapes: fragrant and floral, tangy and nutty, slightly cidery; long and delicate

Anapea Village, Mtsvivani (Kvareli Side) 2019, qvevri amber - 12.3% Importer: Okros Drinks

classic golden amber colour; fragrant with bruised apple fruit, rose petals and savouriness

Dakishvili Famiy Vineyards Kisi 2019, qvevri amber - 13% Importer: Clarke Foyster

tangy and aromatic, sherry-esque, quince freshness roasted nuts and spices; rich with dried fruits and green herbs

Tchotiashvili Vineyards Khikhvi 2016, qvevri amber - 13% Seeking importer

tangy, savoury and mellow; with marigold and saffron, leesy and nutty with a full mid-palate; complex and grippy; very fresh

Binekhi Tsolikauri Qvevri 2018, qvevri amber - 13.4% Seeking importer

aromatic and floral with roasted savoury flavours of dried fruits; fresh, long and broad with soft, supple tannins

The reds

Teleda Orgo, Saperavi 2019, qvevri red - 13.5% Importer: Clarke Foyster

floral and creamy with lifted baked blueberries, violets and cherry fruit; fresh and sleek with fine tannins

Sanavardo Estate Saperavi Qvevri 2019, qvevri red - 13% Seeking importer

very fresh, cherry-fruited and elegant; long and savoury

Papari Valley, 3 Qvevri Terraces Saperavi 2019, qvevri red - 16% Importer: Georgian Wine Society

something of a happy accident, a fully dry red originally intended as a dessert wines with 16% alcohol as a result; rich amarone-style; deep, bold, viscous and saturated

Itsis Marani Bimbili 2019, red - 14% Seeking importer

fresh, cherry-fruited, delicate pale and floral; Pinot-esque or think Cab Franc / Gamay

Lukasi Saperavi 2017, red - 14% Importer: Taste of Georgia

bloody with iodine and beetroot, dark berries ; concentrated fresh and supple

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