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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Georgian wine tasting

29.06.2013. First time I have tasted a Georgian wine was in my first wine class, “History of Wine” taken on Fall 2012 at Chaplin School of Hospitality with prof. Bill Hebrank. As we went throughout the history of wine in class we were able to taste wines from distinct countries that you would not usually have the opportunity to do so, not because they are not available on the market, but because they are not familiar to us and unfortunately most of us try to stay on the safe side while experiencing new things, in particular wine, where it might not seem complex at first  but it requires more information that you might be willing want to know.

This past Friday, 06/21/13 we had the opportunity to taste 6 Georgian Wines. It was an experiment conducted by Clark Smith and his assistant in Miami-FL, Nicole Linares to introduce these wines to the “American palate”. Note that our tasting group consists of every nationality, not only Americans, as you would imagine in South Florida.

Clark Smith is one of the teachers for the Wine Program at FIU. He spends most of his time in California but nevertheless he has an amazing partnership with The Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

As assigned by him, we tasted 3 whites and 3 reds. He joined us via a Skype conference call and we went thought each wine together. In addition to that, he gave us a little bit of background on the country and the challenges that Georgian wines have been facing by trying to get into the American Market.

I will go over the wines and its information, in addition I will insert my own personal thoughts about it. The group had mostly the same impression about each, but still, wine tasting is a unique and personal experience. Before judging one and taking my word and impression for it, you should try it yourself.

As we waited for three more people to join us, we decided to start the tasting at 9:30pm with the whites.

Wine #1.
Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli 2011

Apellation: Finger Lakes (NY) was the only wine tasted at this night that was produced in America.

Alcohol Content: 12.5%

Grape Variety: Rkatsiteli

“One of the oldest vinifera grapes to man, ‘Krat’ is an elegant dry wine presenting wine presenting a bouquet of fresh flowers and herbs balanced with wonderful fruit and crispy acidity. This wine is dense and comparable to a Pinot Gris.”

My personal notes:

I was impressed when Clark told us that this wine was produced from a vine that was planted in 1952. Usually old vines produce less yield but tend to increase in quality. It was the only American produced wine of the night and in my opinion the one that lest impressed me. The Rkatsiteli grape variety is grown at the Finger Lakes, New York and it is produced by Dr. Konstantine Frank.

The appearance was a clear and light, I could see a very pale gold, but when tilted the legs where not pronounced at all. The nose was delicate as its appearance, hints of star fruit and roses came right after swirling the glass as well a hint of fresh-cut grass. The taste did not suggest  any balance since the only thing that I could really taste was the high acidity in my mouth. There was a lack of fruit and elegance on it.

Overall the wine was very fabbly and extremely dry. It had no character and its body was thin as water. I craved a big glass of water after tasting it. Still, there were some of the group that thought the acidity was pleasant and was the win’es highlight.

Wine #2.
Schuchmann Rkatsiteli 2008

Region: Georgia – Telavi Region

Alcohol content: 12.5%

Grape Variety: Rkatsiteli

“This wine presents aromas of pear, apple and peach with a medium body and long finish. This wine is made in modern style.”

My personal notes:

This was my favorite white of the night. Although none of them impressed me that much this Rkatsiteli had an interesting color, a light yellow that resembled a crispy gold. The taste was the surprise, not only I did, but most of the group smelled oak in it, and when we ask Clark about it, we’ve learned that no oak was involved in any part of the process. Along the oak we smelled smoke with a combination of banana, apple, white pepper  and pears. (etolacit) Nice body but short finish. Overall it was a pleasant wine with good acidity. I would love to have it during a summer night paring it with fish and grilled vegetables.

Wine #3.
Pheasant Tears (interesting name) Rkatsiteli 2009

Region: Republic of Georgia/ Bodbiskhevi, Kakheti Region

Alcohol content: 12.5%

Grape Variety: Rkatsiteli

“Aromatic, with notes of black tea leaves, sandalwood and incense, this smoky Georgian amber wine boasts delicate orange rind and blossom flavors, swathed in bristling, chestnut skin-like tannins. There’s a wonderful textural richness attributable to the wine’s prolonged maceration in traditional Georgian qveri. This wine is meant to be aged for decades. It is rough and a little young and will not be as neon orange as older wines, such as Fire Wine. Be prepared to sense oxidation in this wine.”Qvevri: Unique Georgian wine vessels made out of clay.

My personal notes:

It had definitely a beautiful color, like amber or a liquid in fire. I had never seem a white wine with such a unique and amazing color as this one had. The nose was a very intriguing one. It indeed smelled like black tea as the description above, besides that the only notes I could pick were truffle and earth. The smell did not match the taste at all, which was a little bit disappointing. The wine lack a lot in structure, there was no acidity to ensure the maturation of the wine, and the only thing I could think about was a 5 o’clock tea party. Yes, it was very watery and a very dissatisfying wine. Overall I would not recommend the wine, not because it is “young” but because I do not think that it will get better than already it is, there is not enough going on to hold the aging and this is the style of the wine itself. It is easy to drink but it does not bring any excitement. It is a flat wine without any surprises, despite the interesting color and unique scent, do not expect anything else!

After everyone arrived, the group was now complete. This including myself, Orestes Lavassas, Nicole Linares (the host), Sara Kaplan, Cortessa Major, Azadeh Zigari and her fiance, as well Aaron Welch and his brother Morgan.

Time for the reds!

Wine #4.
Vinoterra Kisi 2006

Region: Georgia, Kakheti Region

Alcohol content: 12.5%

Grape Variety: 100% Kisi

“100% Kisi, a very rare grape varietal, which is fermented in qvevri and then allowed to mature in oak. A little nutty, a little salty, a little savory with loads of mouth feel, structured character. This wine is delicate but has high tannin and will drink like a red wine. If properly aged, this wine will mature well for many more years.”

My personal notes:

It had a deep color that covered the surfaced when placed against the white table cloth. By its color I expected a full wine when tasting it, but on the contrary it was light. Its nose resemble apricot, some hint o cloves and a subtle scent of mint. Regarding its taste, I was not surprised nor disappointed. It was pleasant in the mouth presenting a good balance but a short finish. It was a rather common wine that I would drink chilled during the daytime by the pool or beach. Overall it was a wine that did not present any excitement, it lacked structure. Maybe it is too young but I do not think it has the necessary tannin to age well or better saying that 2006 might be already too old.

Wine #5.
WineMan Saperavi 2007

Region: Georgia, Kakheti

Alcohol content: 12%

Grape variety: Saperavi

“Made entirely from an indigenous variety called Saperavi grown in the Kaheti region of Georgia, this is a bold red that takes on aged qualities despite its relative youth. This is intentionally oxidative, rather than maturing too fast. Full o blackberry and cherry aromas and flavors, this is full-bodied, complex and earthy. More of a conventional style. This wine is an interesting red, well balanced with a notable cherry flavor and soft, ripe tannin.”

My personal notes:

It was my favorite red of the evening and it had a deep color, it was so red that put into contrast with a white surface you could not see trough. It had a perfect balance on its tannin with hints of black pepper and smoke olives that would also indicate use of oak, but again this wine as we learned was produced in old style . Cherry and blackberry where easy to pick up as in comparison with our more known Cabernet Franc. It is definitely a wine more suitable to the American market than the others tasted. I love the structure of this wine, it did had balance and it introduced each element in an harmonic way, yet I could still pick its unique terroir in it, the different earthiness scent on the nose and on the finish of the palate made it the best of the show.

Wine #6.
Pheasant Tears Rkatsiteli 2009

Region: Georgia, Bodbiskhevi/Kakheti

Alcohol Content: 12.5%

Grape Variety: Rkatsiteli

“Aromatic, with notes of black tea leaves, sandalwood and incense, this smoky Georgian amber wine boasts delicate orange rind and blossom flavor, swathed in bristling, chestnut skin-like tannins. There’s a wonderful textural richness attributable to the wine’s prolonged maceration in traditional Georgian qvevri. This wine is meant to be aged for decades. It is rough and a little young and will not be as neon orange as older wines, such as Fire Wine. Be prepared to sense oxidation in this wine.”

My personal notes:

This wine presented a deep red color, almost black as ink. It had very nice tears and the legs were pronounced. The nose had hints of cherry, mushrooms and dirty. A subtle hint of leather was felts. It was debated during the tasting part if either it was too sugary, my opinion or it was only very fruity. Overall it was a consistent wine with a medium finish. I was not impressed since I think it was very similar to all “american taste like” wines, plain on nose and taste. It missed the hint and characteristic of its origin to become unique.

Additional information on Qvevri:

“The Georgians were the first people to stomp grapes with their feet until they no longer felt anything solid under their soles. Every farmer had a wine cellar. What was peculiar, however, was that there were no wine tankards or barrels to be seen. Amphorae (Qvevri) were buried up to the rim under a row of “molehills” on the cellar floor, where they fermented in the cool earth. A note in the diary of a global traveler around the year 1600 proved that the Georgians maintained this tradition over thousands of years. “There is no country in the world where better wine is drunk. The farmers hollow out thick tree trunks and use them as stamping troughs. They pour the juice into large earthenware tankards and bury them in the cellar floor.” The observer believed that the wine producers used this technique to hide the delicious drink from enemies. On the contrary: they contributed the first chapter of wine production to the history of wine (see the “Geschichte des Weines). From August 2009 you too can stomp grapes in the traditional manner and observe how the juice is collected in the Qvevri at our estates.”

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