Monday, December 31, 2012

"The Korea Herald": Georgia proffers signature wines

Photo: The Korea Herald

by Philip Iglauer

31.12.2012. The Georgian Embassy in Seoul, Korea, hosted an event featuring the country’s wine and brandy for prospective Korean importers and the foreign diplomatic community in response to a growing demand here for quaffs from the Caucasus.

Georgian Ambassador to Korea Nikoloz Apkhazava also underscored the importance of his country’s wine to Georgian national identity during a tasting Thursday.

“It is difficult to describe the importance of wine to Georgians. It is so tied up with our national identity,” Apkhazava said. “When we think of wine, we think of our homeland.”

In fact, the word “Georgia” itself comes from a Greek word, meaning “tiller of the land,” the ambassador said. It was likely a description applied to the peoples inhabiting the territory between the Black and Caspian Seas by Bronze age Greek and Phoenician traders who prized Georgian wine, he said.

Apkhazava highlighted a few wines and brandies in particular, such as a Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi from Georgia’s foremost wine-growing region of Kakheti in the eastern corner of the country bordering Azerbaijan.

The Saperavi had a dry powdery texture with spicy notes of black pepper. It punches above its weight in terms of value, at about $16 a bottle online.

Traditional Georgian grape varietals are still little known in the West, but they are gaining recognition as international awareness of wines from Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union like Moldova come into their own.

Another red, Marani Kindzmarauli was a bright cherry-colored semi-sweet red also from Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region.

Georgian wines are not available commercially and to the general public here, but Mina Choi, editor-in-chief of Wine Review Magazine, said Korea will see Georgian wines here soon. Wine Review is planning Georgian wine tastings in the near future.

In 1985, wine production was 881,000 tons. Many old Georgian vineyards were cut off at the peak of their production, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign in the 1980s.

Added to that, the collapse of the Soviet Union and conflicts with the Russian Federation in the 2000s brought the Georgian industry to its knees. It took more than a decade for Georgian viticulture to recover.

Two Georgian brandies featured at the tasting stole the show, and the ample supply of Askaneli and Sarajishvili on offer disappeared quickly.

The award-winning XO Sarajishvili offered at the tasting had a deep reddish-brown color. It has an aroma tasted of maple nut and salted caramel, and felt velvety and smooth at the back of the palate.

Perhaps Georgia’s most well-known wine and brandy lover was Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who sent fellow brandy enthusiast Winston Churchill a barrel of the prized spirit on a monthly basis.

Apkhazava’s favorites, however, remain semi-sweet reds from Kakheti, like Marani Kindzmarauli.


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