Category Archives: Mtsvane

Georgian Wine Tasting in Istanbul

Georgian wine has been gaining in popularity for several years now. Not even Istanbul can resist the charms of neighboring Georgia’s wine and cuisine. While we don’t get a huge variety of Georgian wine here we at least have a steady supply.

While the wine tastings I lead are usually Turkish wine-focused, several months ago we shelved the Turkish wine in favor of some of the Georgian wines available here. Apparently not even sharing a border with a country makes it easier to import alcohol. The selection here is limited to a few basic table wines from a couple of Georgia’s large, commercial producers; particularly Chateau Mukhrani and Telavi Wine Cellar.

Georgian wine

Chateau Mukrani is one of the largest wineries in Georgia. The winery was originally established towards the end of the nineteenth century by Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni on the family’s Mukhrani estate. By 1896 winery production peaked with twelve wines and international awards and popularity. Unfortunately the chateau and vineyards suffered during the twentieth century. In 2002 an investment group formed to restore the chateau to its former glory. By 2007 they were producing wines from newly invigorated vineyards in the eastern Georgian village of Mukhrani.

In the middle of Alazani Valley, lies Kakheti’s largest city, Telavi. It is just outside the city where, in 1915, Telavi Wine Cellar was founded. Telavi Wien Cellar belnds innovation with a sense of history, keeping faithful to the noble traditions of Kakhetian winemaking, while adapting to modern methods to produce wines that would please the most refined, and discerning global palate.

Georgian food

Of course no Georgian wine tasting would be complete without some traditional Georgian food. I made several dishes including both Imeretian and Megruli khachapuri, a chicken salad, and my favorite Georgian starter: eggplant rolls with garlic walnut paste.

And now, the wines!

Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane

Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane 2014 Tasting Notes:

There are some dozen different grapes with the word Mtsvane in their names because in Georgian, Mtsvane just means “green.”  Many grapes are called Mtsvane Something, and typically the Something part of the name has to do with where the grape is from (or thought to be from).  Mtsvane Goruli (or Goruli Mtsvane) means “green from Gori,” which is a town in the Kartli region in the Caucasus mountains of south-central Georgia.  This and Mtsvane Kakhuri, which means “green from Kakheti” are the two most common varieties found.

We tasted the Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane. Bright and fruity with white and yellow plums and citrus on the nose, the sur lie ageing add some depth of flavor while keeping the wine’s freshness and easy to drink nature.

Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli

Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli 2014 Tasting Notes:

Rkatsiteli is probably the most common white wine grape variety in Georgia; particularly in Kakheti. It is used to make everything from table wine to European-style wines, qvevri amber wines, and even fortified wines.

Like the Goruli Mtsvane above, the Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli was also aged sur lie. Flavors of yellow and white plums, white mulberry, and citrus are highlighted by refreshing acidity. A warm finish hints at both the sur lie ageing and the depth of character of which this grape is capable.

Kondoli Rkatsiteli

Telavi Wine Cellar Kondoli Rkatsiteli 2011 Tasting Notes:

This Rkatsiteli from Telavi Wine Cellar was much more complex than the young and fresh version by Chateau Mukhrani. The wine was aged 70% in French barriques (35% new oak, 35% old oak) and 30% in stainless steel.  Fruity and aromatic, the nose is warm with the scents of apricots, white peach, melon, and toasted nut. Minerality balances the fruit on the palate keeping them fresh instead of saccharine and hints of hazelnuts and slight buttery finish from the oak give this Rkatsiteli some very interesting layers.

Telavuri Saperavi

Telavi Wine Cellar Telavuri Red Tasting Notes:

Unlike the other wines from the tasting, this wine from Telavi Wine Cellar is a non vintage blend from the winery’s Kakheti vineyards. Part of the winery’s table wine line, this dry red is a Saperavi-lead blend of local Georgian grape varieties. While not particularly complex its fruity aromas (largely black fruits like blackcurrants) and velvety texture make it perfectly quaffable.

Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi

Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi 2012 Tasting Notes:

The final wine of our tasting was the Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi 2012. More complex than the non vintage from Telavi Wine Celler, this Saperavi was aged 20% in French, American and Caucasian oak barrels after undergoing malolactic fermentation. A beguiling bouquet of black mulberry, blackberry and cherry tempt you to explore further while light florals, balsamic, and echoes of soft oak on the palate complete this wine’s seduction.

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane 2014

Tanini was one of my favorite winery finds at Tbilisi’s New Wine Festival this year. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a bottle of their rose to bring home though. The Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane amber wine more than made up for any disappointment though!

Tanini is the brain child of Emzar Vasadze who makes traditional Georgian wines in Kakheti. Using only native grapes, he produces Saperavi, Tavkveri, Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, Kisi, and Saperavi Rose wines; mostly in qvevri. Georgian wines, particularly qvevri wines, are knows for being pretty tannic and he took the name of his wine, Tanini, for that quality.

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane

But wait, what are qvevri and amber wines? I am by no means an expert on Georgian wines and recommend checking out Exotic Wine Travel and Taste Georgia. In a nut shell though:

A qvevri (kve-vri) is an egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for making, ageing and storing the wine. They are made in all sizes with large wine producers using vessels large enough for a man to climb into. Usually they are buried in the ground. After pressing the grapes the juice, skins, stalks, and seeds are all poured into the qvevri which is sealed. In this style of wine making the cap is not punched down, nothing is stirred or messed around with. In a few months the seal is removed from the qvevri and the wine is siphoned out.

Amber wine, also known as orange wine, is kind of the reverse of a rose. Whereas rose wines are red wines made in the style of white wine; amber wines are white wines made like red wines. In short; they ferment for a time in contact with the grape skins (and seeds and sometimes stems). The more skin contact the wine has had, the darker amber (or orange) color the wine will achieve. While Georgia is possibly the most well-known for its amber wines; they are not the only ones who make them. You can find amber wines throughout the Balkans, north east Italy, and elsewhere.

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane

Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane 2014 Tasting Notes:

You can see from the picture what a deep amber color this is. Mtsvane simply means “green” in Georgian and indeed the grapes are very green. So it takes some amount of skin contact to achieve this burnt orange color!

To me, qvevri amber wines always smell overwhelmingly of apple cider. Quite possibly because I grew up drinking fresh pressed, unpasteurized cider so that raw quality that Georgian amber wines have must prick a memory. The Tanini Qvevri Mtsvane had a lot of that aroma for me. I also detected peaches, peach skin, mineral, and a smokey something.

This is also an unfiltered wine meaning no finding took place to clarify the wine. While it’s got only 11% abv, the wine making style ensured that this still packs a big punch! It explodes in your mouth with massive, chewy tannins. Yeasty apple and peach flavors wrap around a solid acidic and mineral core. There’s not a lot of progression in this one; it’s a full attack from start to finish.

There’s a growing movement in the wine world, including Georgia, for “raw” wine. Raw wine takes organic wine making a step further. Basically the rule of thumb, as I understand it, is nothing extra in or out. It’s just the grape and what it brought with it. So no foreign yeasts to aid fermentation, only the yeast that lives naturally on the grape. No fining, no filtering, no manipulation of any sort is done. I believe that that Tanini followed that practice with this Mtsvane. However for me a better description of this particular wine would be not “raw” but “wild”.

 

2014 Mtsvane by Okro

While we were in Sighnaghi KMac and I made a point to find the Okro winery and restaurant one evening. When we arrived one of the family members showed us around their cellar and answered our exhaustive questions. Of course we then stayed for a tasting and to have dinner. To accompany the excellent food we ordered my favorite bottle from the tasting: the 2014 Mtsvane by Okro.

Mtsvane by Okro

Mtsvane, which means “green” in Georgian, has six different, genetically unique, variations. The two most common of which are Mtsvane Kakhuri and Goruli Mtsvane. I am not positive which of the two Okro used. I know she told us told but unfortunately I misplaced my notes! My guess is that it is probably the Mtsvane Kakhuri. It grows well on the calcareous soils in Kakheti where Okro is located.

When made European-style (fermented and aged in stainless steal) Mtsvane Kakhuri makes light, dry wines with white peach, floral, citrus and tropical aromas, with a light mineral undertone. When made in qvevri it darkens into an amber wine with flavors that are more like apricot and other stone fruits.

Mtsvane by Okro

Goruli Mtsvane, on the other hand, is mostly planted in the alluvial soils along the Mtkvari River and in the Ateni Valley. Goruli Mtsvane is very light and best drunk when young and fresh, when its floral, lime, and subtle honeyed notes are crisp and most vibrant.

Mtsvane, be it Kakhuri or Goruli, is one of my favorite Georgian grapes and this Mtsvane by Okro is one of the nicest I’ve had. I’m so happy I managed to convince them to sell me a bottle! It seems that when KMac and I were there they were down to their last few bottles of the 2014 and were keeping them back for the restaurant.

Mtsvane by Okro

2014 Mtsvane by Okro

First of all, this is a qvevri wine fermented and aged in one of the traditional, Georgian clay vessels. Also unfiltered so it’s quite cloudy.

The nose was apricots and peaches and honey with a hint of something green. From the aromas in the nose I half-way expected it to be slightly sweet even though I knew it was a dry wine. In fact it was rather sharp with some lemon, a lot of minerality, and thyme.

I enjoyed all the Okro’s wines we tried but this was my favorite. I hope that the next time I visit Kakheti I’ll be able to visit Okro’s vineyards as well.