Georgian wine is having something of a moment right now. Whilst we acknowledge the irony of that statement – the country recently was declared to be the world’s oldest wine producer with a tradition dating back some 8’000 years – in modern-day London, the statement does ring true.
Due in part to an increasing interest in both amber and natural wines, in recent years, unique and often biodynamic Georgian wines have occupied the upper echelons of wine lists at some of the city’s hippest restaurants and wine bars, from Kol to Planque, Bright and beyond.
Not that Georgian wine producers would necessarily consider themselves particularly trendy. In fact, it’s commonplace in the country for families to make their own wine, nearly always using ancient, organic techniques handed down through the generations.
Here, and on plots of land across the country, a lengthy maceration and fermentation process occurs in traditional earthenware vessels known as qvevri, which are buried underground to regulate temperatures – usually with minimal intervention and leading to a resultant bold structure and intriguingly complex flavour profile. We just love it.
There’s a huge variety on offer in the country, too, with around 8’000 vintages and 500 varieties of grapevine, the most in the world, according to our friends and Georgian wine aficionados at 8wines.com.
They go on to tell us that Georgia’s nine wine regions cover the whole country, with Kakheti in the north-east, lying at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, the most productive area.
But enough talk, we’re getting thirsty. Let’s explore what’s drinking really well right now; here are 5 of our favourite Georgian wines to try in 2022.
Papari Valley 3 Qvevri Terraces Saperavi 2020
We start with one of the best-selling Georgian wines in recent memory, the gorgeous organic red Papari Valley 3 Qvevri Terraces Saperavi 2020.
Though the country is arguably most famous for it’s low-intervention orange wine with its characteristic flavour of the farmyard, this Saperavi is perhaps even more revered, spending a lengthy ten month process fermenting in a qvevri, with the long skin contact lending an intense colour and even more forward-facing finish.
Though the tannins are certainly firm and tightly-knit, there’s a seductive plum-like fruitiness to the wine, with the Papari Valley’s position on the Gombori range and subsequent cool climate also lending a distinct minerality that balances both those dense and plummy notes.
It should also be noted that if you have the right conditions to store fine wine safely, then this Saperavi ages beautifully.
This is a gorgeous wine, make no mistake, available for £15.20 from 8wines here.
Papari Valley 3 Qvevri Terraces Chinuri-Rkatsiteli 2020
We couldn’t leave the Papari (meaning ‘horse’s mane’ in English, referring to the wavy nature of the hills here) Valley without trying one of the region’s famed organic orange wines, which are getting real recognition here in the UK among natural wine aficionados.
Crafted from a blend of Rkatsiteli and Chinuri grapes and distinctive for its high alcohol content (this particular orange is a whopping 12.5%), the first thing you’ll notice about this wine is its striking almost-gold hue, which indicates the luxurious, lingering drinking experience that awaits.
On the palate, there’s plenty of tangy, fresh-forward notes of pome fruits, with an earthy, citrus undertone reminiscent of thyme or bay leaf. The gentle tannins and pleasingly drawn out finish mean the wine is the perfect companion to smoked or barbecued fish.
Available from 8wines for a surprisingly modest £13.20 here.
Lagvinari Rkatsiteli 2019
Georgia’s premier wine region, Kakheti, plays host to the Lagvinari winery, which does things in a proudly, stubbornly old-school way. In this unusual white wine – a relative rarity in a country where orange wine is so popular – the Rkatsiteli grape is fermented underground for nine months, with six months of skin contact in the traditional qvevri leading to a hue that’s close to amber (though not at all cloudy), despite its classification as a white.
On the nose, there are toasty, nutty notes and an intoxicating almost-overripe apple aroma, as well as plenty of floral elements, all of which translates on the palate into a solid, medium-bodied, ultra-complex wine. This intriguing, sometimes spicy complexity lends itself perfectly to Turkish, Lebanese or Greek food.
You can find this totally unique white at 8wines for £32.40 here.
Barbale Late Harvest Rkatsiteli 2019
When you think of dessert wines, the mind immediately conjures up images of Sauternes, Muscat, Pedro Ximenez or even a christmassy Taylor’s Vintage. But Georgia is starting to make a real name for itself in the sweet wine world, and it’s down in part to this guy; the Barbale Late Harvest Rkatsiteli 2019.
This striking sweet wine comes from the newcomer Barbale Winery in the Kartli region, which is one of the most exciting new areas for Georgian wine production. Using only indigenous grapes and centuries-old techniques, this organic sweet wine made from 100% Rkatsiteli grapes (harvested by hand as late in the year as possible to ensure the maximum sugar accumulation) is a real showstopper.
Looking like liquid gold in the glass, you may feel like you’re drinking gold, too; you’ll pick up honey and lavender on the nose, with an explosive flavour of ripe pear and and an ultra-refreshing nature making it a superb partner to seasonal fruit tarts.
Available from 8wines for a bargain £16.60 here.
Tchotiashvili Kisi 2016
We simply had to end a list of our favourite Georgian wines with another organic orange number; the Tchotiashvili Kisi 2016, from the award-winning, family-run Tchotiashvili winery.
Before 2006, the Kisi was considered a long-forgotten grape variety, but in recent years, many winemakers have once again embraced this grape, with the Tchotiashvili family integral in bringing it back from extinction. The Kisi grape is known for producing wines with a characteristic citrus zest aroma, gentle, balanced acidity and surprisingly strong, though certainly not unpleasant, tannins.
This one is best enjoyed just slightly chilled, rather than straight from the fridge, and pairs beautifully with goat’s cheese, as a good deal of orange wines do.
Find it at 8wines for £18.25 here.
Cheers, or as they say in Georgia, Gaumarjos!