Marks & Spencer have culled a lot of the quirkier wines in their range of late, so I’m delighted that this left-field, skin-fermented white from Georgia, the so-called cradle of wine, is still on its shelves. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape in the limestone-dominated area of Kakheti, it has funky, earthy, quince and orange peel flavours and some tannic grip. Dry and unusual, it’s a textbook introduction to wines fermented in clay pots, or qvevri.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A very accessible qvevri wine, with melon, honey and floral aromas giving way to spicy but restrained tannins and apricot kernel. A great introduction to Rkatsiteli and the qvevri style.
Too young at the moment – winemaker Gogi says wait two years, but there’s a bright future for this complex, structured amber wine. The nose has everything from cooked plums, to toffee and caramel. Generous stone fruit and quite full bodied.
Apart from being almost impossible to pronounce (seemingly half the letters are silent), Mtsvane has an entrancing soft, rounded texture, and in this example, an aroma of tea leaves and spiced plums. This is a great example of how these amber wines age effortlessly – and indeed are much better after a couple of extra years in bottle, when the tannins resulting from extended skin contact in the qvevri have integrated a bit.