How the other half drinks

by Matt Walls
Is there a quicker way to get to know someone than by flicking through their music collection or browsing their bookshelves? Both feel like a little glimpse into their soul....

Georgia: a visit to dreamland

by Tim Atkin
Visitors to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi were warned to stay off the streets last month. The city has seen its share of disorder over the centuries, but this had...
91

2012 Tbilvino Qvevris, Kakheti

( £9, 11.5%, Marks & Spencer )

Fresh from a trip to Georgia, I recommended this wine on Saturday Kitchen as a way of pushing the vinous boundaries on daytime TV. I’m delighted that it was so well received. As orange wines go, this Rkaciteli from the country’s best wine region, Kakheti, is not that extreme, as only part of the blend was fermented and aged in clay amphorae (qvevri). But it’s still a very good example of the style: bone dry and slightly bitter (from the skins) with notes of orange rind and black tea and a lingering, dry finish. 

BuyDrinking window: 2015-18Similar Wines: £5-£10, 91-95, Georgia, White, Rkaciteli

Rawfair steals the show

by Simon Woolf
It’s the third Monday in May. I’m in East London, in a barn of a building, buzzing with wine producers, press and trade. There’s a palpable sense of excitement throughout...
90

2011 Alaverdi Monastery Saperavi, Kakheti

( POA, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene )

Alaverdi only produce around 20,000 bottles a year, and they had already run out of the 2010 vintage when we visited in November 2012. This 2011 Qvevri sample needs another year for the rather brutal tannins to resolve, but the purity and focus of the dark, berry fruit is evident. There’s some attractive ginger spiciness, terrific freshness and what Charles Metcalfe describes very aptly as a “balsamic hint”.

BuyDrinking window: 2014-2024Similar Wines: £20-£30, 86-90, Georgia, Red, Saperavi
92

2011 Kera Wine Tsolikouri, Kakheti

( N/A, 13.5%, Available from the winery )

Apricot stone aroma, intense minerality and savoury fruit. You’d hardly know this qvevri-fermented wine had spent much time on the skins, as there’s very little phenolic influence. Beautiful balance, bone dry and a terrific match with a traditional Georgian salad of aubergines and tomatoes.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2014Similar Wines: 91-95, Georgia, White, Tsolikouri
90

2008 Jakeli Saperavi, Kakheti

( N/A, 13.8%, Available from the winery )

An excellent qvevri-fermented Saperavi from a small (6ha), organically certified producer in Georgia’s Eastern Kakheti region. Spicy nose, and candied cherry fruit. Seriously structured, with an attractive rosemary scent, and perhaps not suprisingly a great match with lamb.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: 86-90, Georgia, Red, Saperavi
95

2010 Alaverdi Monastery Rkatsiteli, Kakheti

( POA, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene )

This is the wine that first won me over to the charms of the qvevri – the most astoundingly complex nose of tea leaves, baked apples, jasmine, herbs and plum compote (and bear in mind my description does not remotely do it justice). Very much an amber/orange style, with chewy but perfectly ripe tannins – and yet the fruit shines through effortlessly. Outstanding.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Georgia, White, Rkatsiteli
93

2008 Vinoterra Cabernet Sauvignon, Kakheti

( N/A, 13%, Available from the winery )

A fascinating example of what happens if you take an international variety (Cabernet Sauvignon in this case) and ferment/mature it in a qvevri – in this case the wine was also matured in oak. Cabernet’s minty blackcurrant footprint is clearly present, together with herbaceous, spicy and balsamic hints. This is a big wine, with very ripe fruit, but super fresh and really rather elegant. Perhaps not entirely authentic, but original and stays true to the qvevri style. I drank this with Christmas roast goose and all the trimmings – a tough gig, but it held up.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2028Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Georgia, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon
92

2009 Vinoterra Saperavi, Kakheti

( €15.90, 13%, Geovino )

Trademark Saperavi produced by Gogi Dakishvili at Schuchmann Wines – Saperavi is perhaps the most important indigenous red grape variety in Georgia today. Peppery, raspberry and prune fruit with an attractive balsamic note. Spicy, tannic but well balanced. Feels effortless.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2020Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Georgia, Red, Saperavi