In my prior two posts featuring wines with a splash of Mtsvane, I was under the impression that there was a single Mtsvane grape and that the references to Mtsvane in each of the two wines were references to that grape.
It turns out that there are many grapes with the word Mtsvane in their names because in Georgian, Mtsvane just means "green." Many grapes are called Mtsvane Something, and typically the Something part of the name has to do with where the grape is from (or thought to be from). Mtsvane Goruli (or Goruli Mtsvane) means "green from Gori," which is a town in the Kartli region in the Caucasus mountains of south-central Georgia. This is the grape that was used in the Bagrationi sparkling wine that I wrote about in 2011. Today's grape is called Mtsvane Kakhuri, which means "green from Kakheti" since it is thought to be native to the Kakheti region of Georgia. This is the grape that was also in the Tsinandali wine I wrote about way back in 2010. Confusingly, both grapes are generally known and generally labeled merely as Mtsvane so to figure out which one you're dealing with, you have to know where in Georgia your wine is from.
There are many other Mtsvane Something vines (the VIVC has around a dozen listed), but Goruli and Kakhuri are the most common. Of those two, Kakhuri is more widely planted with nearly 600 acres devoted to it as of 2004. Mtsvane Kakhuri is also grown to some extent in Armenia, Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine, but not really anywhere else. Georgia's wine making history is thought to be older than any other country's, and many grapes currently grown there are said to have very ancient roots, but these claims are often difficult to back up. Nearly all of the evidence for early wine making is archaeological and it gives little idea as to exactly what grapes may have been used for those ancient wines. Further, as we've noted above, names like Mtsvane are very common and it is unclear which Mtsvane may be referenced when there are are textual sources available. Finally, Georgia has had a complicated relationship with Russia throughout its history and was stuck behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th Century. This relationship may have corrupted or destroyed some records as well.
The wine that I was able to try was the NV (though it was possibly from 2011) Telavi Wine Cellar "Marani" Mtsvane from the Kakheti region of Georgia. This bottle set me back about $12. In the glass the wine was a silvery lemon color. The nose was somewhat reserved with aromas of apricot, pear, and green apple with a weird chemical or metallic kind of smell. On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly low to low acidity. There were broad flavors of pear, golden apple, white peach and lemon peel/lemon water. The flavors were pretty washed out and when you coupled that with the fairly low acidity, you end up with a wine that's not a whole lot of fun to drink. While there are a lot of good wines coming out of Georgia, there's still also a lot of lackluster and sometimes straight up bad wines coming out as well and it's difficult to know what you're getting yourself into when you're trying something new. This isn't a bad wine, but merely an average one that I have a hard time imagining a place for at my table or in my cellar.
On request of Mr. Theo Jansen, we are publishing his comment:
Theo Jansen January 30, 2013 at 3:26 PM
The grape Mtsvane is according to my experience in showing this variety on tastings since 1995 both in the USA as in Europe a very promising variety and generally appreciated.
The Mtsvane from Marani obtained in Vancouver International Wine competition a score of 87points and was given the nomination: Best bargain Wines
In EU The 2010 vintage got from the IWSC silver, best in class ; from DecanterSilver and from the int.Wine Challenge bronze.
This indicates that you must have got a very odd bottle not representative for the wine and the producer. It is a pity that your opinion based on a bad bottle for whatever reasons makes the variety and the producer seem to be not good. At the contrary seen the above.
As promotor of Georgian wine and especially Mtsvane I would have hoped that you would have tried a second bottle before issuing your opinion. Theo Jansen, Honorary Citizen of Georgia