The Wines of Georgia
23rd May 2007

Georgia is often regarded as the birthplace of winemaking.  Archaeological excavations have revealed grape seeds that date back to 7,000 – 6,000 years BCE and large clay jars that have been dated to 3,000 years ago.  In his Agonautica written around 295 BC, Apollonius of Rhodes praises Georgian wine.  Georgia has around 500 indigenous varieties, of which 38 are kept at levels for commercial production.

The most common red wine comes from the saperavi variety, apparently an ancestor of syrah.  I found all the saperavi wines to have a very gentle soft red fruit palate, that makes them very attractive, very easy drinking wines that could do very well in the on trade, particularly pubs and bars.  Saperavi is unusual in that it actually has a red juice.

It’s also noteworthy – and very welcome – that the alcohol content of these wines is kept low in relation to trends elsewhere.  In part this may be due to the practice of harvesting early, because of the very hot summers.




Kindzmaraulis Marani
The Kindzmareuli wine region is located in Kakheti at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, one of, if not the oldest wine making regions of the world.  Kindzmaraulis Marani (the Kindzmarauli Winery) was founded in 2000, with its own vine nursery, and now has vineyards covering 435 hectares in Kvareli (apparently one of the best wine regions of Kakheti), planted with indigenous Georgian varieties.  Construction of the winery began in 2003 and was completed in 2005.  It is capable of processing around 5,000 tonnes of grapes a year.

Georgia’s history of wine production means there is a large number of indigenous varieties: Kindzmaraulis Marani aims to revive varieties that have died out or are endangered.  One hectare of the vineyards is set aside to grow a sort of archive stock of vines.  Across all its vineyards, the company currently grows the following varieties: rkatsiteli, Kakhetian mtsvane, kisi, khikhvi, pink muscat, saperavi, cabernet sauvignon, budeshuri, otskhanuri sapare.

2006 Kisi, Kindzmaraulis Marani
Bottled on the 16th May 2007.  Quite a floral, rather muscatty nose.  Minerally palate – quite floral and a bit extracted.  Nevertheless an interesting wine with nice character.  Very Good.  86/100

2006 Mtsvane, Kindzmaraulis Marani
Bottled on the 16th May 2007.  This has a decent nose with some interest.  Nice palate.  Very interesting.  Good character and interest.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2006 Khikhvi, Kindzmaraulis Marani
Bottled on the 16th May 2007.  Concentrated, sweet nutty nose.  Interesting palate.  Very Good.  87/100

2005 Manavi, Kakheti, Kindzmaraulis Marani, 12.5%
Manavi is a dry white made from the mtsvane variety in the region around the village of Manavi in Kakheti.  It has a nice attractive nose with floral, concentrated almonds.  Lovely floral palate with hints of muscat, but with some curious body too.  Interesting and rather good.  Very Good.  88/100

2005 Kakhetian Royal, Kakheti, Kindzmaraulis Marani, 13%
The white Kakhetian Royal is a blend of rkatsiteli, mtsvane and khikhvi grown in Kvareli in Kakheti.  It is made in the ancient style with fermentation in clay pots.  It has a deep gold colour and a soft, aromatic nose though it’s not especially floral, but with hints of sherry.  Lovely palate.  Very interesting with some powerful, yet pleasant extracted flavours.  There’s a weight on the palate that leads one to the idea that it might be a touch sweet, but it isn’t.  Very good clean finish with tannins noticeable on the finish and after.  Very Good Indeed.  91/100

2005 Kvareli, Kakheti, Kindzmaraulis Marani, 12.5%
This is a blend of saperavi and the less common budeshuri grown in Kvareli.  This has a very nice nose with red and black fruits and a nice meatiness.  Very nice palate with good concentration, which gives it more character than the single varieties.  Very Good Indeed.  91/100

2005 Saperavi, Kakheti, Kindzmaraulis Marani, 12.5%
100% saperavi from the Kindzmarauli region of the Kakheti.  This has a good nose with soft red fruits.  There are quite pure fruit flavours on the palate with good tannic structure appearing towards the finish.  Very Good.  87/100

2005 Kakhetian Royal, Kakheti, Kindzmaraulis Marani, 12.5%
The red Kakhetian Royal is a blend of 80% saperavi and 20% budeshuri grown in kvareli in the Kakheti region.  It has very concentrated black fruits, not unlike a super cuvée syrah from the Rhône.  Very rich, creamy palate, with very fine, elegant fruit.  A lovely drink.  Very Good Indeed.  91/100

2005 Kindzmarauli Original Semi-Sweet, Kakheti, Kindzmaraulis Marani, 10.5%
The fermentation is stopped by chilling.  It has quite a delicate, fairly floral nose with sweet red fruits.  An elegant restrained palate with a gentle sweetness.  Very pleasant.  Very Good.  87/100


Telavi Wine Cellar
The Telavi Wine Cellar was established in 1915 in the Alazani river valley in the Caucasus.  The company was revived in 1997.  They have their own vine nursery capable of producing 200,000 vines per year, and vineyards in three main appellations: Tsinandali for white wines, Mukuzani and Kindzmarauli for reds.  The vineyards are planted, according to location, with Saveravi, Mujuretuli, Usakhelauri, Rkatsiteli, Qisi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Chardonnay.

2006 Mtsvane Marani, Georgia, Telavi Wine Cellar, 14%
A floral, very dry nose.  Clean and precise on the palate.  A bit sauvignon-like with chenin edges.  An interesting wine.  Very Good.  85/100

2005 Kondoli, Tsinandali appellation, Kakheti, Telavi Wine Cellar, 12.5%
This is a blend of three Georgian varieties: rkatsiteli, mtsvane and qisi.  It has a fresh, gently fragrant nose.  Very nice palate: very balanced with interesting fresh fruit and mineral flavours.  Very Good.  87/100

2006 Saperavi Marani, Telavi Wine Cellar, 13.5%
This has soft cherry fruit on the nose. There is soft, very young fruit on the palate, and it has a nice gentle spicing.  I guess you might call this a Saperavi Nouveau.  87/100

2004 Saperavi, Mukuzani appellation, Kakheti, Telavi Wine Cellar,
There is restrained cherry fruit on the nose.  On the palate there is some exceedingly soft fruit.  There’s some spicy oak evident on the finish (the wine spends eight months in French oak).  Very Good+.  88/100

2004 Saperavi, Satrapezo, Telavi Wine Cellar, 13%
Aged in oak for 24 months.  There is integrated oak and cherry fruit on the nose, which is very even.  Very soft palate, with soft, easy red fruits.  Very Good.  88/100



2004 Tsinandali, Mildiani, Georgia, 12%
A white wine made from the rkatsiteli grape grown in vineyards around the village of Tsinandali.  It has quite a spirity stone fruit nose.  Unfortunately it’s not chilled and is actually very warm, which does it now favours at all.  It has some fairly concentrated dried fruit flavours and some acidity on the finish.  Good/Very Good.  85/100

2004 Mukuzani, Mildiani, Georgia, 12%
From the saperavi grape grown in vineyards around the village of Mukuzani.  A soft open fragrant red fruit nose.  Very open, velvety, gentle palate.  Very easy, soft, fruity drinking. Very attractive.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2004 Khvanchkara, Mildiani, Georgia, 11.5%
This is a semi-sweet red wine made from the alexandrouli and mujuretuli varieties grown in the village of Khvanchkara.  Unlike most of the other wines on show, which come from eastern Georgia, this wine comes from western Georgia.  It has a sweet, perfumed red fruit nose.  Rather interesting on the palate, though I think the main interest comes from the unusual grape varieties rather than the winemaking.  Pleasant, but not overly thrilling.  Good.  83/100


Other Georgian Wines Tasted


2005 Mtsvane, Tamada, Georgia, 12.5%  Mtsvane is the grape.  A grassy, gently fragrant, fresh nose.  Full palate with a hint of raisining, but without any especially noticeable sweetness.  This is interesting stuff.  Very nice clean finish with huge length and very nice after.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100

2004 Tsinandali Special Reserve Limited Release, Tbilvino, Kakheti, Georgia, 13%
A blend of rkatsiteli and mtsvane, aged in oak for nine months.  A very interesting nose: a touch marzipanny and concentrated with almonds and a slight spiritiness.  Very good palate: creamy and round from judicious oaking.  Full and richly flavoured with sweet dried fruit character, but it’s bone dry and has a nice acidity too.  Good balance.  Very Good Indeed.  91/100

2005 Old Tbilisi, Georgia, 12.5% (
This is a blend of rkatsiteli and mtsvane.  This has an attractive nose, somewhat reminiscent of a semillon-sauvignon blend.  There’s quite a rich feel to the fruit on the palate, with very fine balancing acidity.  A nice clean mouthfeel with plenty of interest and character.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2006 Saperavi, Tamada, Georgia, 12.5%
A very deep, inky purple colour.  There’s attractive perfumed black fruit on the nose: blackberries with some blueberry character too.  Very fresh, very young, vibrant fruit on the palate.  This has a fairly sweet mouthfeel and is very easy with a delicious juiciness.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  88/100

2005 Saperavi Reserve, Tamada, 12.5%
Aged in oak for a year.  There’s sweet, sawdusty vanilla and oak on the nose.  This hasn’t taken well to the oak at all, or at least it’s going to need a lot of time to integrate, though I doubt it will.  OK.  79/100

2004 Old Tbilisi Saperavi Dzelshavi, Dry Red Wine, Georgia, 12%
This is a blend of 90% saperavi and 10% dzelshavi.  An interesting nose, though not over characterful.  Soft, easy ripe fruit on the palate.  Quite gentle and easy, though there’s some structure too.  Good+.  85/100

2004 Saperavi, Tbilvino, 13%
A very strange nose: quite muddy and unclear.  Unattractive palate.  The poorest of these by far.  74/100

2004 Mukuzani, Tbilvino, 13%
From the Kakheti region and the saperavi grape.  Muddy, slightly stinky nose.  Decent palate initially, but it’s overtaken by a huge, severe astringency.  Poor.  76/100

2005 Saperavi Limited Edition, Akhasheni Village, Kakheti, Georgia, Maisuradze Wines, 14%
The saperavi vines for this wine are around 40-50 years old.  The nose has ripe red fruits with a nice sweet perfume.  Very clean and open on the palate, though there’s a certain hollowness and tannic astringency, before some chocolate and tannins come through on the finish.  Good.  83/100

2005 Mukuzani Limited Edition, Mukuzani Village, Kakheti, Georgia, Maisuradze Wines, 14%
100% saperavi, from vines aged between 40 and 50 years, aged in new French oak.  A rich, deep plummy fragrant nose.  There’s soft fruit on the palate initially, but it’s rapidly overtaken by a huge over-oaking.  Very sandy, grainy tannins dominate the palate completely.  Overdone and spoiled.  OK.  78/100

2005 Tsinandali, Kakheti, Vinoterra, 12.5%
100% rkatsiteli.  This has an interesting nose: floral yet rather muted.  Nice palate.  This is a soft, easy wine with nice balance.  There’s good acidity on the finish which keeps it lovely and fresh.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2005 Kisi, Vinoterra, 12.5%
This 100% kisi is made by the classic Georgian ‘technology’, that is it is fermented in kvevri (clay jars), and then matured in oak: a style which has been taken on by Josko Gravner in Friuli in Italy.  It has a rich almondy nose with some salty savouriness.  Lovely palate: really very nice indeed and with huge interest.  There’s lots of character and interest, and it’s less challenging than the Gravner whites, though the style is identical.  Excellent.  94/100

2003 Saperavi, Vinoterra, 12.5%
Clay jar fermented.  This has a rather curious nose with smoky black fruits.  Rather astringent on the palate, especially in comparison with the other saperavi wines.  Odd, gentle, open and slightly porty on the palate, but without the sweetness.  Very Good+.  88/100

2004 Mukuzani, Kakheti, Kakhuri, 13%
100% saperavi.  An interesting nose with sweet black fruit and deep perfumed violets.  Interesting palate with more structure than some of the other saperavis.  It has some very interesting flavours and a unique character.  Quite fresh, with a nice structure.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2005 Shumi, 12%
Shumi is the name of the wine and the producer, with just the single word appearing on the label.  It is a dry white, and a blend of 70% rkatsiteli and 30% mtsvane.  It has a very floral, elegant nose with some green notes.  Interesting palate, but a bit hard.  Good.  83/100


Just for anyone looking for notes on wines made in the state of Georgia in the United States of America, here's a few notes made the same day as those above:

Persimmon Creek Vineyards
Clayton, Georgia, USA

Located in the cool climate of the North Georgia Mountains, at an alitutde of around 2000 feet, Persimmon Creek Vineyards was established in the latter half of 2000 by William and Mary Hardman, with vineyards planted along the Persimmon Creek.  The mean temperatures in Persimmon Creek between late April and September go from the mid 60s in May and September to the mid 70s to mid 80s in June, July and August.  This is at least 10 degrees lower than most of America’s West Coast, though a few degrees warmer than the top half of the East Coast and Canada.

2006 Seyval Blanc, Persimmon Creek, Georgia, USA, 11%
310 cases produced.  An interesting, somewhat curious perfumed nose.  Fragrant, floral white flower flavours on the palate, with a bit of a soapy feel.  Not bad, but it’s not much more than a curiosity.  Good-ish.  82/100

2006 Riesling, Persimmon Creek, Georgia, USA, 10%
200 cases produced.  Persimmon Creek is the only winery in Georgia that produces a 100% estate grown and bottled riesling.  This has a chalky lime nose.  Not bad on the  palate: clean and fresh; though it feels a little confected.  Good.  83/100

2005 Cabernet Franc, Persimmon Creek Vineyards, Georgia, USA, 13%
The cabernet franc vines were planted in 2000, producing 250 cases of the 2005 vintage.  The wine was aged in equal proportions of new French oak, American oak and Hungarian oak.  The nose has dusty, stalky dark fruits.  On the palate it’s ripe and unbalanced and not terribly nice.  OK.  78/100


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Last updated: 13 July 2007