Monday, December 24, 2012

In a Swedish castle in Georgia

Ampheloograhical collect of Georgiaby Magnus Reuterdahl

24.12.2012. It would be easy to put a header as Georgia on my mind, as it truly has been, and it’s such a great song but instead I’ll hold my horses and start to put words to a few of my thoughts… but then again the Georgia trip was filled with music, so let's continue in that tradition.

About a month ago I was in Georgia, along with a number of other wine lovers on one of the EWBC post trips in search of the cradle of wine and new experiences.

That Georgia makes wine may not come as a surprise to everyone, but that Georgia makes superb wines and still make wine in much the same way as in antiquity is perhaps more surprising. In Georgia they make wine in two ways, in part in much the same way as we do wine in Europe and the New World and then they also make wines in amphorae (qvevri) called qvevri wines. The technique dates back several thousand years back in time.

Today we know that there are more than 500 different grape varieties in Georgia, most of which is only found in this part of the world and many only in Georgia. The most common are the green grapes rkatsiteli, khikhvi and kakhuri mtsvane and the blue grape saperavi.

On the Amphelograhical collect of Georgian grapevine Germplasm just outside Tbilisi researchers collected a gen bank consisting of 20 plants of each grape. This to preserve the different grapes and clones of grapes for the future, but also so that winemakers can get shoots and replant unusual grapes.

During our stay in Georgia we visited several winemakers, the first I present is Chateau Mukhrani, a wine chateau with a Swedish connection. The castle itself dates back to 1878 and Prince Mukhrani of the Royal family Bagrationi. It was abandoned and fell into disrepair during the Soviet period. In 2003 the estate was begun to be repaired by Marussia Beverages and Georgian businessmen. In 2007 they collected their first harvest in decades.

Today the new winery is fully functional and the castle is more or less rebuilt and the the wine cellar is almost complete. For some years now, one of the major owner is from Swedish and that's perhaps why I was met by a familiar language and a polar beer like dog when we got off the bus and met Petter Svaetichin.

Lado Uzunashvili
Lado Uzunashvili
Today the castle includes about 100 hectares of land of which 90 hectares are planted with vines, some are still too young to give any real returns yet. When replanting the vineyards this have been done to be more or less like in the 1870s. The soil is mainly clay and they have currently 11 different grapes, including four international and one unique grape; goruli mtsvane, only grown here. They are also the only one who works with a chateau-concept, ie the crop is in connection with a castle. Today they produce about 320’000 bottles of wine per year, and the goal is to be to produce approximately 650’000 bottles in a few years. The winemaker is Lado Uzunashvili.

Chateau Mukhrani 2010  RkatsiteliAt Chateau Mukhrani they only do wines in the European style and no qvevri wines, at least not yet. We got to try six of their wines and they are really nice, fresh and elegant.

Here are my notes in short, white wines:
Chateau Mukhrani 2010 Rkatsiteli
Easy to drink, fresh with nice acidity and good fruit, a little apple and apricot and a slight nuttiness and a hint of butterscotch. A good standard wine.
Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane 2010
Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane 2010
The unique grape produces a fresh wine, hints of pineapple and citrus with a little spicy aromatic notes.
A rosé:
Chateau Mukhrani Rosé Tavkrevi 2011
Chateau Mukhrani Rosé Tavkveri 2011
Initially slightly sweet with lots of strawberry, a nice little acidity with hints of rhubarb and in the finish a nice spiciness. A nice summer drink.
Red wines:
Chateau Mukhrani shavkapito 2010
Chateau Mukhrani shavkapito 2010
Dark red and blue berries, intense tone, good oak and nice spice. Nice balance and a nice acid gives a nice but fairly simple everyday wine.
Chateau Mukhrani saperavi 2008
Chateau Mukhrani saperavi 2008
Pretty easy on the nose, nice fruit, still young and fresh, elegant with fine oak. In the aftertaste there are a few notes of green pepper. Would be nice to store 3-5 years.
Chateau Mukhrani reserve du prince 2007
Chateau Mukhrani réserve du prince 2007
Intense flavor, good depth, dark fruits and berries, cherries, raspberries and linon berries. It’s a little soursweet with good oak flavours and a hint of forest, stables and tobacco notes. It ressembles a Piedmont wine in style, but is still far too young – store!
We must not forget the Georgian spirit / grappa Chacha – this would probably fit well on the Swedish market, attractive packaging and really enjoyable to shot!
On the whole, Chateau Mukhrani proved to be a very nice winery with great promise and is well worth a try if you get the chance! The same applies to the country of Georgia – a very nice holiday destination and in a year or so you can book a room in the castle.
I’ll be back with more on Georgia … soon!

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