Category Archives: R

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.

Villa Antonori Bianca 2015

I love Italian wine. Red or white. I don’t care. I love it all. And when you find a trusted producer, like Marchesi Antinori, you are guaranteed that even the lower end wines will be nice. Such is the case of the Villa Antinori Bianca 2015.

The Villa Antonori Bianca is a Tuscan wine. A white Tuscan wine! Surely not! Surely yes! Tuscany is not just about red wines. The red wines might be more well-known but there is no shortage of white wine in Tuscany.

Villa Antonori Bianca

Marchesi Antinori is the famed producer of Tignanello-the herald and (still) standard bearer of Super Tuscan wines. Antonori produces far more than Super Tuscans though; and they’ve been doing it for 26 generations. They have eight estates producing wine in both the Toscana and Umbria IGTs (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), three DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), and three DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

Antinori produces many high-end wines and are lauded, rightfully, for their excellence. It’s so nice to know that the same sense of excellence and commitment to quality extends to all their wines. The Villa Antinori Bianca being included.

Villa Antonori Bianca

Villa Antonori Bianca 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Villa Antonori Bianca is a testament to a master blender. The wine is a blend of five grapes: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Trebbiano, Malvasia Toscana, and Rhine Riesling. How a body is supposed to be able to pick out all those grapes is beyond my comprehension.

Straw yellow with faint green highlights the wine is full of light and life in the glass and the nose. The nose is aromatic; brimming with flowers and citrus. Flavors of lemon and grapefruit wrap around a highly acidic core. The acid was something of a surprise after the delicate nose but it was perfect for cutting through the saltiness of what we were eating.

It’s a lovely wine perfect for pairing or sipping on a hot day.

Chamlija Reisling

The 2014 Chamlija Riesling

A friend of mine was in town not too long ago and I met her at her hotel for a drink. Normally I’d have suggested Solera or one of the other wine places I like so much but she was staying at Soho House and I couldn’t not go.

Soho House is a private club/luxury hotel with locations around the world. A new location was recently opened in Istanbul in what was the American Consulate here. Now the American Consulate is far outside the city it might as well be in Bulgaria. It’s a gorgeous building and Soho House has done a lot of expensive renovation on it. Interestingly enough it’s still owned by the Consulate (there are some rules as to what one can and can’t do with things owned by embassies) but Soho House has leased it for something like 99 years. Since I don’t have an impressive enough bank account nor am I cool enough to get membership, I can only get into Soho House with a member or guest of the hotel.

Inside it’s all muted lighting, semi uncomfortable furniture (sure I’m a little overweight but I don’t usually have a problem getting my rather non-existent hips into an armchair!), and hushed voices. Use of social media at the hotel is forbidden as are making phone calls (in the club) and taking pictures. They even go so far as to put it on the coasters (one of which I nabbed).

Seriously

What does this have to do with wine? Just reaffirming that I would rather be home drinking some Turkish wine than hanging out in a club that’s too cool for me with prices reminiscent of my DC days (cocktails ranged from between  35-40 TL).

Even though summer is over and I generally only drink white wine in the summer, I couldn’t resist any longer the Chamlija Reisling I bought at the end of the season. I generally like Riesling and since I have yet to meet a Chamlija wine I don’t like I thought that this would probably be 90 TL (from La Cave) well-spent. I was right.

Rieslings are fruity, aromatic wines that can run the gamut from super sweet to dry. If you’re looking for a particular style but the label doesn’t describe the sweetness level you can tell by the alcohol content. Generally the lower the alcohol content the sweeter the Riesling is. The 2014 Chamlija Riesling, at 13.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), was on the drier side.

A beautiful pale to medium lemon, this Riesling has a delicate and beautiful nose of possibly jasmine, honeysuckle, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and green apple. Rieslings have a fairly wide range of possible flavors the most dominant of which depend largely on whether the grapes are from cooler or warmer climates. Chamlija’s vineyard is only 120 kilometers from Istanbul which I guess puts in somewhere in the temperate climate area? I really must find a friend who doesn’t mind squiring me around though because as close as Chamlija is, it might as well be on the other side of the country to someone like me who doesn’t drive.

In the mouth the Chamlija Reisling is smooth and clean with zesty citrus, honeysuckle, green apples, and cantaloupe; super lovely. With medium high acidity it’s also quite literally mouth watering! It’s so rare that I like any white wine that’s not sweet so I’m over the moon when I do. Chamlija has scored for me a couple times now; once with their Viognier-Narince, with the single varietal Viognier and now with this. I really do heart Chamlija.

Not only are Chamlija wines gorgeous to drink but their labels are beautiful. I believe that the daughter of the current vintner designs all of them. I think I should like a print to hang in my apartment. Perhaps one of these days when I make it to winery!