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Posts Tagged ‘Georgia

Skin or not

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Kakheti 2016, Chinuri No Skin, Pheasant’s Tears ($43.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chinuri. Direct pressed (no maceration) but still made in large beeswax-lined qvevri sunk into the ground. Spontaneous fermentation. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Subtle nose: white fruit (pear?), quartz, a faint floral note. Medium-bodied. Very dry though fruity enough that that’s not immediately apparent. Smooth on entry, then the tingly acidity kicks in. The fruit is more citrus than, say, stone and the sustained finish is mineral-laden. Clean, crisp, refreshing and more complex than it initially seems. Cyril, who visited Georgia recently, says this wine is magnificent after 10 years or longer in the bottle. (Buy again? Def.)

Kakheti 2017, Rkatsiteli Bodbiskhevi, Pheasant’s Tears ($39.55, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rkatsiteli from the village of Bodbiskhevi. Spent 30 days on the skins. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Bronze to the eye. Fragrant, savoury nose: ramen, apple and apricot skins, dried sawdust. Pronounced tannins and fluent acidity structure the fruit (peach leather?) and confer a slightly grippy texture. Herbal overtones and mineral undertones add savour and depth. A touch of nuttiness (walnut skins?) emerges on the long finish. Complex, flavourful, engaging and about as close to a classic Georgian orange wine as you’re likely to get. (Buy again? Yep.)

Kakheti 2016, Rkatsiteli, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rkatsiteli. Reportedly spent about a month on the skins. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Hazy, even turbid beige. Odd nose with a plastic note that opens up to yellow fruit, white minerals and straw. In the mouth, it’s a bit spritzy, perlant as the French say, and fuller-bodied than you might expect. Fruity but dry, with zingy acidity and faint tannins. Overtoned with herbs and dried flowers. Little if any oxidation but a long, clean, tangy finish. So charming. (Buy again? Yep.)

Yet another set of excellent wines from Pheasant’s Tears. The only downside is the prices, which have taken a jump well in excess of 10%. Cyril says that’s primarily because the SAQ, which imports the wines into Quebec, doesn’t have a pickup point in Georgia or environs, meaning the wines have to transit through a country that does. Earlier shipments have gone through Sweden, which, as a non-member of the Eurozone, doesn’t charge Eurozone tariffs. This current shipment transited through Italy, which does.

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Georgia straight

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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, often along with the skins, ripe stems and seeds, to large qvevri, terracotta jars 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 video.

The resulting wines are full of character – they’ve got guts, as Hugh Johnson puts it in another video – 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 ourselves forced to abandon our usual appreciation criteria and descriptors, taken out of our comfort zone and questioning what it is we want from a wine. It’s a brave old world and one we’re glad to have the opportunity to explore.

Established in 2007 by an American artist and a Georgian, Pheasant’s Tears winery is located south of the Greater Caucasus mountains in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. The wines are made traditionally in qvevri lined with organic beeswax. Skin/stem/pip contact varies from wine to wine but no sulphur is added to any of them.

Kakheti 2017, Poliphonia, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Georgia counts 525 indigenous grape varieties. This is a field blend of 417 of them. The vines – between one and 10 of each variety – are co-planted. The grapes are harvested in three or four passes and so are a mix not only of colours but also of ripeness levels. Co-fermented in qvevri. 12.5%. Quebec agent: La QV.
Technically a red but actually a dusky rosé with an amber cast (the colour reportedly differs from vintage to vintage). Initially reduced nose – “durian,” per one taster, and sulphur – gives way to hard-to-pin-down fruit (“strawberry rhubarb” was the best anyone came up with). In the mouth, it’s barely medium-bodied and quite dry. The beautiful if – again – elusive fruit has an acidic/citric streak. Complex set of flavours. Smooth, fluent texture. The tannins are light, more like a full-bore orange wine’s than a structured red. Tangy finish. Evolves – improves – in the glass. Delightfully disorienting: unlike anything any of us had encountered before. The wine of the night for many and the only wine in the tasting that the group ordered three cases of. (Buy again? Done!)

Kakheti 2015, Tavkveri, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Tavkveri. 12.5%. Quebec agent: La QV.
Reticent, faintly funky nose with notes of fur and dog hair that segues into dark berries. Medium-bodied and juicy-fruited. Dry. Fine structure: sleek acidity, limber if a little raspy tannins. Long, tasty but a bit of a wallflower in comparison to its weirder flightmates. Will be interesting to see what time in the cellar brings. (Buy again? A bottle to spend time with now and another to revisit in 2022.)

Kakheti 2016, Saperavi, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Saperavi. 14%. Quebec agent: La QV.
As, always, the biggest red. Unevolved nose of dark fruit and minerals, the reductive notes quickly blowing off. Smooth even elegant in the mouth for such a rich and full-bodied wine. The fruit (“cherry on the attack”) is dense yet the wine is fluid and fleet. Husky tannins, sleek acidity and dark minerals provide structure and relief. The long finish is bitter-edged. Somewhat monolithic but, hey, it’s young. It’s also vigorous and well-balanced and earlier vintages have aged beautifully. Enjoyable now, even better in two to five years. (Buy again? Done!)

A couple of decades ago, when wine on the Web was becoming a thing, there was a site where you could keep a list of the grape varieties you had tasted and, when you reached 100, receive a certificate. (Given the rarity of obscure varieties on the North American market at the time, it was a much bigger challenge than it would be today.) Anyway, a friend points out that a single sip of the Poliphonia would have qualified you for the certificate more than four times over.

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 5 of 7

MWG January 16th tasting (8/8): Pheasants under glass

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Kartli 2011, Tavkveri, Pheasant’s Tears ($28.50, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% organically farmed Tavkveri, which Cyril described as being a Georgian analogue to Gamay. 12.5% ABV.
Sweet-smelling nose, the red fruit sprinkled with maple sugar and joined by notes of spice, ink and wood. Smooth and supple in the mouth, with just enough tannin to lend the wine a velours-like texture. The red cherry-like fruit has a definite tang. Fun. (Buy again? Making a point of it.)

Kakheti 2011, Saperavi, Pheasant’s Tears ($29.75, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% organically farmed Saperavi, another red-fleshed grape. 12.5% ABV.
Surprising nose of oysters, slate, spice and a whiff of barnyard. Approachable if tense tannins and sustained acidity give this middleweight good structure. The silky fruit takes on an earthy edge that lingers through the long finish. There’s not a lot of depth here but a really interesting surface. Seems a shade lighter than the 2010 tasted last spring. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

February 7, 2014 at 11:55

MWG January 16th tasting (3/8): Rkatsiteli à l’orange

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According to some estimates, Rkatsiteli is, by acreage, the third most planted vinifera grape in the world. It’s also one of the oldest. Most is grown in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, though it also has a toehold in North America, most famously in New York’s Finger Lakes region, where Dr. Konstantin Frank’s version has developed a minor cult following. The Frank Rkatsiteli is made in a modern, clean-as-a-whistle style, in sharp contrast to the three qvevri-fermented orange wines in this flight.

Kakheti 2011, Rkatsiteli, Pheasant’s Tears ($28.50, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% organically farmed Rkatsiteli. 12.5% ABV.
Yellow apple, oxidized pear, hints of spice, honeycomb, roasted poultry juices. Light yet intense and flavourful, with noticeable acidity and tannins. Long. Ultimately fruity and fresh, especially in comparison to the other two wines. (Buy again? Yes.)

Kakheti 2011, Rkatsiteli, Teleda ($30.50, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% organically farmed Rkatsiteli. 13.5% ABV. For background on the winery, which was founded in 2010, see here.
Oxidized butter, dried yellow fruit, dried herbs, dried flowers, hazelnut skins, whiff of sourness. Very dry and mouth-filling. Lots of flavour, including brown pear skin and apricot. There’s a core of vibrant fruit, acid galore and lingering faint tannins. The finish has a heady, almost volatile edge. A favourite of several around the table. (Buy again? Yes.)

Kakheti 2010, Rkatsiteli, Alaverdi ($40.00, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in the sixth century of the common era, the Alaverdi monastery has been making wine since at least the 11th century. The grapes for this 100% Rkatsiteli come from 40-year-old organically farmed vines. Unfiltered and unfined, with minimal added sulphur. 13% ABV.
Deep bronze as opposed to the other wines’ amber. Powerful, wild nose with notes of house paint and plaster along with more conventional apricot, minerals and herbs. Rich bordering on dense though in no way heavy. Structured by firm tannins and gleaming acidity. Very long. Fascinating. Needs food – something you might say about all the Georgians. (Buy again? Another bottle.)

Written by carswell

February 1, 2014 at 11:38

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.)

Written by carswell

January 31, 2014 at 13:39

Bourdymania

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Word has been a little slow in getting out, but, assuming he’s no longer snowbound at the Paris airport, Jura winemaker Jean-François Bourdy is in town and La QV has organized a few events around the visit.

From now through Saturday, Bocata wine bar in Old Montreal is serving glasses of Bourdy’s 1951 Château-Chalon, a vin jaune, paired with old Comté cheese for $40 a shot. Yes, that’s pricey, but bear in mind that a 620 ml bottle of the wine retails for a cool $559.

On Thursday, March 14, the bar at Toqué! is pairing three Bourdy wines with three small dishes designed expressly to accompany them. There are two seatings, the first at 6 p.m. and the second at 7:45 p.m., and only 12 places per time slot. For details, including the number to call for reservations, see here.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Bourdy will be in Quebec City for the Salon des vins de Québec.

And on Monday, March 18, the winemaker will be part of the Erin vs. Erin event at Nouveau Palais. The $30 fixed menu includes a lamb main course. Red, white and bubbly Bourdy wines will be flowing and the Pheasant’s Tears Seperavi from Georgia will be a by-the-glass option for the lamb. Two seatings: 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Reservations required.

Written by carswell

March 13, 2013 at 00:18

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MWG January 10th tasting (3/7): Pheasant’s Tears

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The spark for the January 10th tasting was the recent arrival of several wines from Pheasant’s Tears, a young winery (established in 2007) located south of the Greater Caucasus mountain range in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. In contrast to the modern-styled Georgian wines we usually see, Pheasant’s Tears wines are made using traditional Georgian techniques that stretch back many thousands of years (most wine historians consider the region to be the birthplace of wine-making). 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, clay jars (lined with organic beeswax in Pheasant’s Tears case) that have been sunk into the cool ground, where it ferments (with indigenous yeasts) and matures. No sulphur is added, yet all three wines of the wines we tasted are as stable as they come.

For more background, see this YouTube clip from Hugh Johnson’s vintage Vintage series, globe-trotting Julien Marchand’s report (the last photo is of Julien in the Pheasant’s Tears tasting room), the Wikipedia article on Georgian wine and, of course, the Pheasant’s Tears website.

Chinuri 2011, Kakheti, Pheasant’s Tears ($27.25, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chinuri. 12% ABV.
Hazy gold. Unique nose: pears in syrup, saltwater taffy, slightly rancid butter, the ground under a cedar tree. On the light side of medium-bodied. Fluid. Very dry, even savoury. Crisp acidity. Delicate flavours tending to citrus, herbs and minerals. A bitter, faintly astringent note on finish. Hard to pin down – elusive, ephemeral – and all the more interesting for it. (Buy again? Done!)

Rkatsiteli 2010, Kakheti, Pheasant’s Tears ($27.25, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rkatsiteli. 12.5% ABV.
Amber-coloured – definitely an orange wine. Bouquet of honeyed yellow fruit and spice, not unlike some late-harvest whites. The palate is totally at odds with the nose and totally unlike modern-styled Rkatsitelis I’ve tried: bone dry, medium-bodied, structured and surprisingly tannic, with fruity overtones (dried apricot?) and a walnut skin astringency. Mouth-filling and long. Unique, involving, fascinating. (Buy again? Done!)

Saperavi 2010, Kakheti, Pheasant’s Tears ($29.85, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
100% Saperavi. 12.5% ABV.
Saperavi is a red-fleshed grape, which may explain the wine’s nearly opaque black-red colour. Nose of dried blueberries, sweat, skim milk, bay leaf. Rich and earthy in the mouth but not heavy. Intensely flavoured: dark fruit, spice, slate. Grippy tannins and a lingering astringency. Less dry than, say, a Bordeaux but not in any way sweet. Great breadth and length. A wine with real presence and a dark magnetism. (Buy again? Done!)

Written by carswell

January 26, 2013 at 12:42