Wine on Wednesdays – Georgian Wine

Georgian wine doesn’t get much play in the US. Maybe it’s because the nation was formerly part of the “Evil Empire”, the Soviet Union.

But the wines made in the Republic of Georgia, located on the Black Sea in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, were the first in recorded history, with archeological evidence indicating that people have been making wine there since before 8,000 B.C.

Personally, I had never heard of Georgian wines prior to finding an unusual bottle wrapped in cellophane on the shelf of my local wine store. It’s called Saperavi, and it’s a dry red wine from the Kakheti region, the heart of Georgia’s wine-producing area.

Saperavi — the Georgian word for “paint” — is actually a type of grape native to Kakheti. It is a deep red grape that produces the darkest juice of any grape in the world, practically as black as squid ink. Yet this wine’s flavor is much more mellow than you might expect. While not as smoothly rounded as merlot, it is closer to zinfandel, having the same type of characteristic spiciness.

I found it to be a bit exotic, yet quite drinkable. Whenever I try a wine I’ve never heard of, especially from a place I know absolutely nothing about, I always approach it with a bit of trepidation. But in this case my anxiety was unfounded. Saperavi was delicious.

It was also very inexpensive. I paid $6.45 for the bottle, well below my self-imposed limite of $7.99/bottle for affordable wines.

And it comes with such a rich history. Some credit the people of Kakheti with the invention of wine. Nearly 5,000 years before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, people in Kakheti discovered that if they buried grape juice in clay jars underground at the beginning of winter, when they dug them up in the spring, it will have fermented into wine.

Then there’s the Kakheti tradition of drinking wine out of goat horns, something that apparently is still being done to this day.

As Americans, we sometimes are prejudiced against all things Russian due to lingering  resentment from the Cold War. But Georgia never wanted to be part of the Soviet Union in the first place and was actually invaded by the Red Army in 1921. It gained its independence in 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia and Georgia continue to have a tortured relationship, with the Russian army occupying portions of the country as recently as 2008. In fact, Mikhail Gorbachev tried to destroy the Georgian wine industry in 1985 as part of an anti-alcohol campaign. And Georgian wine has been outlawed in Russia since 2006 due to an ongoing wine embargo.

So there’s no reason to resent Georgian wines based on the country’s past association with the Soviets. The country produces a wide variety of wines, both reds and white and even fortified wines. In fact, on the shelf next to the Saperavi were several Georgian sweet red wines.

With its numerous vineyards and picturesque mountain setting, Kakheti apparently has a growing wine tourism industry, so if you are planning a trip in that part of the world, it looks absolutely beautiful. As the official Kakheti regional administration website states, “Feel welcome to Kalkheti!”

I’m not sure if Georgian wines will ever become as popular as Italian or French wines, but if Saperavi is any indication of their quality (and affordability), then they are certainly worth checking out.


12 thoughts on “Wine on Wednesdays – Georgian Wine

  1. Read Wine on Wednesdays with interest. Our Michael Left Beringer Wines after many years and is now with Middle Sisters. It is relatively cheap. E-mail Mike and he will tell you more about is.

    Jim Gilboy

  2. Oddly enough, I find myself wanting to slowly sip on a glass of red from Georgia with a Cuban cigar. And I don’t even smoke. But it’s a “let’s tear down the borders” kind of thing…

  3. Enjoyed your post, especially since I am an importer and distributor of Georgian wines. We haven’t entered into the Chicago market yet. I am not exactly sure which brand this Saperavi which makes me a bit skeptical but I am glad you enjoyed it. Genuine Saperavi could definitely have the potential to be the next Malbec if we keep getting it out there 🙂 If you get really interested in exploring Saperavi and expanding the budget slightly 😉 you can check out a wide variety of Saperavi’s at this store (they ship nation wide) including bargain ones, and Saperavi made in the 8,000 kakhetian style where the entire wine making process happens in large clay jars, called qvevri, buried underneath the ground. Anyway happy drinking!|Country&page=1

  4. Pingback: Wine on Wednesdays – Bridlewood Blend 175 | Budget Cooking Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s