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
92

2008 Vinoterra Mtsvane, Kakheti

( €11.90, %, Available from the winery )

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.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Georgia, White, Mtsvane
94

2010 Alaverdi Monastery Kisi, Kakheti

( POA, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene )

Alaverdi’s Kisi spends 6 months in the Qvevri, the skins and stalks lending it its deep amber colour, with fine-grained but persistent tannins. The aromas are intensely herbal, almost medicinal with hints of caramel and musk. Quite full bodied, with peachy, cooked stone fruit dominating the palate. Hugely complex, but needs food to show at its best.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2022Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Georgia, White, Kisi
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