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Rare Georgian Wines at the 2015 New Wine Festival in Tbilisi

“Other Varieties”

I attended the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Tbilisi New Wine Festival on the 8th of May as a guest of the Georgian Wine Club. The stunning views over the city from the hosting Funicular Restaurant were certainly magnificent, a perfect choice to open this now annual event. This year’s theme was “Other Varieties” and included a tasting led by Malkhaz Kharbedia of the Georgian Wine Club.Gorgeous view of Tbilisi from the Funicular restaurant

Malkhaz explained that the 2015 edition was dedicated to rare wine and rare varieties, and that the idea behind the fair was to hold an event that was both hedonistic and educational. The Wine Club, in collaboration with the Georgian National Wine Agency, has plans to organize a wine library of Georgian grape varieties and wines. During the Soviet period in Georgia, only 16 types of wines were allowed to be made commercially and they all were numbered 1-16. Wine making was part of a scheme of collectivism, as was all agriculture during this period. Though families were allowed to make their own wines for home use, traditional wine making certainly suffered during this period, and the 500+ varieties were not appreciated and almost disappeared except for a few heroes in small pockets who saved them. You see, in Georgia, wine is more than a beverage; wine is culture, history and part of the Georgian identity. The heroes of Georgian wine are those who promote oenodiversity, traditional wine making. Events such as The New Wine Festival help Georgians reconnect to this collective heritage, and foreigners, like myself, are introduced to new wines and vigneronswe might not have otherwise heard. The fair brings together the larger commercial producers, the family wine makers and the qvevri wine makers to one park with the support of various agencies. It is a matter of national pride as well as an occasion to impress tourists at a really fun filled event.

During the tasting at the opening ceremony, we tasted 10 wines made from rare Georgian grape varieties. Six of the 10 were produced in qvevri. Most were well made, two were absolutely gorgeous and two were nearly undrinkable. 
  • Kisi (grape)
Lukasi (producer)
Kakheti (region)
2014 (vintage)
Lovely clear lemon yellow. Citrus, honey and steel on the nose. Tastes of citrus, very fresh with a long finish. Very well balanced. A well made wine that can age for a couple of years.
  • Chkhaveri
This was my favorite white wine of the evening. This wine is made by Zurab Topuridze , who makes wine in Guria. I was surprised this was a 2011 because it was so fresh. Clear medium golden color. Aromas of orange zest, apricot, stone fruit, sweet spices. Taste is round and fresh, very well balanced with a long finish. This was evolved particularly well in the glass and on the palate. I kept going back to it.
  • Chekobali
Clear lemon color. Very tropical aromas that reminded me of an Alsace Pinot Gris. Dry as a bone, fresh, medium finish.  It was strong on the front of the palate, but strength quickly dissipated in the mouth, not a lot of body or steam in the wine. 
  • Chkapa (qvevri)
Giorgi Barisashvili’s Marani
Lovely, clear amber colo0r.  Aromas of vanilla, dried summer fruits (figs, apricots), truffles, dairy, cheese, floral perfume.  Medium acidity, warm on the palate, medium body.  Well balanced, medium finish. 
  • Khikhvi (qvevri)
Light, clear amber color. Smells of apples, earth and cider. Fresh and tannic with a rich full body.  Medium finish. Not particularly noteworthy. 
  • Rosé Rkatsiteli (qvevri)
Pheasant’s Tears
The smell of horses/barnyard was overwhelming in this wine and made it almost impossible to evaluate. The color was a lovely salmon pink. Taste was fresh but there was a high amount of residual sugar. Strong on the attack phase but little evolution on the palate. 
  • Jgia (qvevri)
Tsikhelishvili’s Marani
I was so excited about this wine and grape that I sent a Tweet to José Vouillamoz of Wine Grapes to confirm that I had found one not in his wine grape encyclopedia. It was the forth I have found that is made commercially. This wine was my favorite wine of the event and not just for the novelty of being rare.  It was a fantastic and well made wine. Beautiful clear ruby red. Aromas of forest berries, cedar, tobacco, cherries, balsamic notes. Very complex nose. Taste was fresh with juicy tannins, full body and long finish. Well balanced and just delicious, a wine for meditation. 
  • Tavkveri (qvevri)
Pheasant’s Tears
Youth purple red color. Aromas of berries and dark soil masked by reduction aromas. Undrinkable. 
  • Simonaseuli

I was intrigued to learn that this variety was quite popular before the 20th century. Beautiful ruby red color. Aromas of wild berries, green notes that made me think it was fermented with stems, and a hint of strawberries. Fresh, full-bodied, smooth tannins, wild berries on the palate, with a long finish. A well made and well balanced wine.The grapes were late harvest. Lovely ripe berries, a bit jammy even. Meat or animal aromas, wool followed by minerality. It was quite fresh, soft tannins, ripe berries, and a medium finish. A good and well structured wine.

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