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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Orovela Saperavi 2006

by Alexander Velky

This Georgian red wine has the thickest, heaviest bottle I’ve ever come across. It was the most expensive bottle from a haul (or “a dozen”) I recently ordered in from Waitrose, and one of the more exotic of a set chosen specifically for their exoticness. Georgian wine may not seem particularly exotic to you, but I’ve never tasted any before and was hitherto wholly unaware of the nation (not US state)’s long history of wine production, and claim to being the “cradle” of wine – both of which are expounded on the label of this Orovela Saperavi.

Saperavi, interestingly, is one of few wine grapes whose flesh, as well as its skin, has a red hue. I rather liked the wine, but I wasn’t as mad about it as some reviewers seem to be. It’s been hanging around for a while (six years, I guess), and sort of tastes like it could do with hanging around a bit longer; it was initially very tannic and acidic, displaying only some of the luscious fruit and complex sweet-bitterness suggested by the wonderfully spicy aroma.

I’m not sure it was the best wine in the world to match with a rather sweet Moroccan chicken dish, to be honest. And it seemed to fare quite a bit better with the tangy rhubarb crumble my mother made for dessert. I don’t really know what a mulberry is, but I definitely get a hedgerow feel from this. The fruits are all blackberry and elderberry. Along with the hints of spice and vanilla from the oak, and tongue-scraping woodiness (which I frequently confuse with tannins, of which there’s some but not too much here), this all makes for a wine that’s kind of intense, though still pretty balanced, and lighter on alcohol (at 13%) than you might expect.

Then again, I suppose Georgia has a fairly cool climate. At least I think it does. I know there are mountains there. And that Stalin and Katie Melua came from there. (With rather different career trajectories from that common starting point.) It’s really rather shameful how little I know about Georgia. All England shares with it as far as I know – besides the aforementioned pop star – is a patron saint. I wonder if their upmarket supermarkets import any of our wine? I somehow doubt it.

It’s pretty pricey, but then they only made 8,880 bottles of it – and bloody thick bottles at that – so I’m grateful for the chance to have tried one myself.

I’m just finishing off the half-glass that was left over from last night as I write this, and it strikes me there’s a hint of liquorice in there too. It’s really not half bad, and the £15+ price tag is hardly excessive for something so distinct. It certainly hasn’t put me off Georgian wine. It’s pretty different to a lot of major red varietals, perhaps bearing the closest resemblance (of my few points of reference) to the Xinomavro (a Greek wine) I had some time ago. Or a good Sangiovese. (Like this Chilean one.)

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