Monday, July 30, 2012

Mukuzani - a true Georgian Grand Cru

I’m quite sure that in a place like Georgia that has a 7,000 year tradition of winemaking, and is also likely the place in which the ancient, wild ancestors of the modern wine grape originally evolved, that there are scores, maybe even hundreds of old vineyard sites known to the locals as plots that produce truly extraordinary wine. Many of these sites are named with names unknown to me or any but the top Georgian wine experts and the hands that tend the vines….

There is however, one place in Georgia with a name known to many all around the world: Mukuzani. In the northeastern corner of Georgia is the Kakheti region, which is often considered to be Georgia’s greatest viticultural zone. Within Kakheti there is the Alazani Valley which contains Mukuzani, as well as a few handfuls of other celebrated regions with peculiarly exotic monikers like Gurjaani and Qvareli.

Mukuzani is made with one, and only one grape, and one with another (relatively) famliar name -  Saperavi. If I had to thumbnail a characterization of Saperavi, I’d sketch it out as a somewhat more elegant, and much spicier brother to Piedmont’s Barbera. But unlike Barbera, Saperavi is one of just a handful of what are known as tinturier grapes, i.e. red skin grapes that also have red flesh and juice. The upshot of having all of this extra pigmentation is the ability to yield musts that have an unparalleled “stuffing”, allowing them to produce wines that can age for decades, and that are blessed with real nobility to boot. And indeed, Mukuzani wines, well made and well stored, can age through several generations, and because things are what they are with the Georgian wine industry, the Russian/world market, etc. they’re a major steal if you can turn one up. That said, there is still counterfeiting of Georgian wines going on, so spend the extra scratch, go to a good merchant, and trust your instincts…

I served this wine with pretty typical Georgian meal: Asian eggplants, “steam/fried” and stuffed with a walnut and spice paste with chopped celery tops, basil, cilantro and pomegranate seeds folded in, stuffed into the ‘plants, and served tepid. The main course was small lamb and beef kebabs flavored with barberries and ground sumac, and a room- temperature salad of soft-cooked green beans, yogurt, cinnamon, and aromatic herbs, and some Turkish pide  bread…Alas, no Georgian bakery any closer than Brighton Beach, Bkln…not today…

Very deeply saturated crimson color. Complex, beguiling nose of mixed berries, melted dark chocolate, wild mushrooms, wet, stony earth, old leather, wood smoke, and vibrant red flower notes. On the palate the wine is powerful but very well balanced and elegant, with a sharply honed acidity, very fine, dry tannins, and a velvety texture that supports flavors of savory sap, black plum, licorice root, sweet spices, grilled strawberries, black cherry, and fine tea. Clean, but long and very complex finish.


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