Category Archives: Saperavi

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.

The Beautiful 2014 Jakeli Saperavi

Last September I returned to Georgia for a trip full of wine and adventure. While I was in Tbilisi I got the chance to meet the founders and writers of Exotic Wine Travel, one of my favorite wine blogs.

Vino Underground

I met Dr. Matthew Horkey and Charine Tan at Vino Underground, a great wine bar in the heart of Tbilisi that is owned by several of Georgia’s premier wine makers. It was there they introduced me to the 2014 Jakeli Saperavi.

Saperavi is a native Georgian grape that has been cultivated in the Kakheti region since 6000-5000 B.C. Over 7,000 years this grape has been grown and used to make wine-Georgia’s claim to being the birthplace of wine is not a light one!

Dark purple, almost black in color, the saperavi grape is one of the few that has pigmentation in both the skin and the pulp. The wines it makes are usually high in both tannin and acid and are boldly flavored.  2014 Jakeli Saperavi

As much as I want to, I don’t really like wines made from saperavi. Which is especially unfortunate as it is the most ubiquitous wine in Georgia. I never found a saperavi wine that really captured me…until that is Matthew and Charine introduced me to the 2014 Jakeli Saperavi.

Founded in 2001, Jakeli is a family venture that makes certified organic wines. They are committed to making quality natural wines which means they don’t add sulfur and they don’t filter. Their saperavi wines are big and bold and will age well for a couple years if you have the will-power to have one and not open it.

2014 Jakeli Saperavi

2014 Jakeli Saperavi Tasting Notes:

In the glass it’s a lovely deep purple color. The nose is deep and multilayered with raspberry, forest fruits, pepper, blackcurrant leaf, and nutty and forest aromas. This 14.5% abv wine is big and gorgeous. Bold, suede-like tannins with strong acid and a long, long finish carry raspberries, pepper, tobacco, and earthy/leafy flavors.

This is a seriously special wine. If you can find any grab all the bottles and run. I don’t know if it’s changed my mind about saperavi in general but if I have a chance to get another bottle I’ll be beating off the competition to do it.