Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

MWG January 16th tasting (2/8): Brave old world

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Most ampelographers and wine historians consider the South Caucasus region – and more specifically, the part occupied by modern-day Georgia – to be the birthplace of wine-making, with archeological evidence stretching back some 8,000 or 9,000 years. Although modern-styled Georgian wines can be found, the most interesting continue to be made using traditional techniques. The grapes – some of the hundreds of indigenous varieties found in Georgia – are picked and trod. The resulting must is transferred, along with the skins, ripe stems and seeds, to large qvevri, terracotta jars lined with beeswax and sunk into the cool ground, where it ferments (with indigenous yeasts) and matures. The process, from start to finish, is nicely summarized in this recent video.

The resulting wines are full of character – they’ve got guts, as Hugh Johnson puts it – and are unlike any other. Like Jura wines, they aren’t to everyone’s taste and even those of us who are fascinated by them may find themselves forced to abandon their usual appreciation criteria and descriptors, taken out of their comfort zone and questioning what it is they want from a wine. It’s a brave new old world and one we’re glad to have the opportunity to explore.

Kakheti 2011, Mtsvane, Pheasant’s Tears ($31,00, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% organically farmed Mtsvane. 12.5% ABV.
Candied peach, “scrambled egg sticking to the skillet,” a lactic whiff of cheese or whey. Fruity but dry. The sleek acidity comes out on the long finish, where it’s joined by a faintly tannic rasp and a hint of oxidation. Intriguing. (Buy again? Yes, maybe to serve with the grilled trout stuffed with green onion, lemon and tarragon from The Georgian Feast.)

Chardakhi 2011, Chinuri, Iago’s Wine ($35.20, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
Chardakhi is a village located in Kartli province near the ancient city of Mtskheta, about 20 km north of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. This 100% organically farmed Chinuri clocks in at 14% ABV. See this Alice Feiring blog post for background on the 2009.
Unfortunately, ours was an off bottle, though you could still tell this is rich, powerful orange wine with structure and dimension. (Buy again? Yes.)

Kakheti 2011, Chinuri, Pheasant’s Tears ($27.25, NLA)
100% organically farmed Chinuri. 12% ABV. A last-minute replacement for the off Chardakhi.
Constantly evolving nose marked by dried dill and pine resin. Medium-bodied, dry and crisp. The flavour is an odd but not unpleasant combination of fresh rainwater and oxidized fruit (pear and citrus?). A bit tannic on the finish, though fundamentally fleet. Not much changed from a year ago. (Buy again? Moot but I’m glad I have another bottle left.)

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Written by carswell

January 31, 2014 at 13:39

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