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Georgian Wines and Spirits:

It's not common knowledge, but Georgia is one of the oldest wine producing regions of the world. The fertile valleys of the South Caucasus, which Georgia straddles, are believed by many archaeologists to be the source of the world's first cultivated grapevines and neolithic wine production well over 8,000 years ago. In fact, their word “wine” is derived from “gvino” – the Georgian word for wine.

Georgia’s wines fall into several zones: Kakheti and Kartli in the east, and Imereti, Samegrelo, Guria, Ajaria, and Abkhazia in the west. By far the most important of these is Kakheti, which produces 70% of all Georgian wine.

These days there are over 500 species of grape in Georgia, a greater diversity than anywhere else in the world, with around 40 of these grape varieties being used in commercial wine production. Conditions are well suited for viticulture: summers are rarely excessively hot, winters are mild and frost-free. In addition, the mountains around the vineyards are full of natural springs, and rivers drain mineral-rich waters into the valleys. All this means that Georgian wines have a reputation for being exceptionally pure.

One of Georgia’s great wine making traditions, which one cannot help noticing when coming across these wines for the first time, is its medium sweet wines, which appear in both red and white varieties, including the famous Kindzmarauli, the less well known but highly regarded varieties of Ojaleshi and Pirosmani, and the magisterial Khvanchkara, the favourite wine of one of Georgia’s most important sons, Joseph Stalin.

Traditionally, medium sweet wines were produced in the mountainous areas where, due to climate and soil conditions, late harvest and early winter prevented fermentation and the wine stayed sweet. This type of wine was therefore generally used for local and quick consumption, because in spring, when the temperature rose, the wines tended to re-ferment and spoil. Nowadays, famous Georgian semi-sweet wines such as Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara are specifically created to preserve their high sugar content.

For the past 5 years or so my wife and I have been drinking Georgian Wines and bringing them back to the UK, in the last twelve months we have now been able to buy these same wines through a specialist supplier here in the UK, but even so we still bring them back from time to time, like my last trip over the last few weeks.

On my recent trip to Ukraine, I was also introduced to a fantastic Georgian Brandy and really shouldn't have been surprised at all at how good their Brandy really is.

So lets take a closer look* at some of the better known wines and spirits from Georgia, starting with some of my own favourites:-

* any costs indicated are for guidance only at today's prices, and are based on buying in quantities of 6 bottles or more in the UK, obviously they are cheaper when buying from the FSU.


Khvanchkara – Telavi  (costs up to £15/bottle)

One of Georgia’s unique gently sweet reds, which has been manufactured since around 1907, and was reputedly the favourite wine of Stalin; it is made from a blend of two local grapes, Alexandrouli and Mujuretuli, and grown in the controlled appellation zone of Khvanchkara, on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains in the Racha-Lechkhumi region of Northern Georgia.

Aromas of smoky, wild strawberry are followed on the palate by a mellow blend of dried fruit, pomegranate and a touch of caramel, though there’s plenty of lively acidity and a light peppery taste helps balance out its sweetness. Try it chilled as an aperitif, or with chocolatey puddings and nuts.

Kindzmarauli – Telavi  (costs up to £12/bottle)

Regarded as one of Georgia’s top appellations, and first delimited in 1942, the competition between Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara to be the top sweet wine in Georgia seems to be the cause of some controversy!

The wines from Kindzmarauli are vinified from Saperavi and always have a little natural residual sweetness. This gives an appealing softness and rounded texture, rather than being obviously sweet and sticky. Telavi Wine Cellar’s version is a deep inky purple red with notes of crushed blackberry, damson jam, and spice. To taste, it has vivid berry fruit and hints of buttery toast, and is gently sweet with supple tannins. It would be a good combination with rich fruit cake, farmhouse cheeses or walnuts.

Cabernet Saperavi – Teliani (costs up to £18/bottle)

This wine is an equal blend of French Cabernet Sauvignon and Saperavi from the Tsinandali region of Georgia, creating a lighter and fruitier wine than pure Saperavi. It is fermented in oak vats and aged in French oak barrels for 12months.

The wine has a dark ruby color and rich aroma of red cherry, black current, plums and a hint of vanilla, with a smooth, long and pleasant aftertaste.

Enjoy with roasted meat and cheese.


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