Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A rainy night in. Georgia?

24.12.2013. 23rd December.  It's raining.  It's blowing a gale.  It's party time.  But not at Purple Teeth's temporary London HQ.  After facing the queues on Oxford Street just to buy the perfect cheese for our Christmas dinner, and being almost swept away Mary Poppins style, I decided:  I'm not going out there, and you can't make me. But London, I promise you, I'm not tired of you yet.

So this begs the question.  Which wine should I enjoy while Mr Purple Teeth had gone to watch Arsenal vs Chelsea in the local boozer?  There are lots of lovely wines laid in for the festive season, and doubtless, 6 kinds of dessert wine will be too many.  But the lure of sharing something unusual with you, proved too much.  So to Georgia I went on this rainy night.

How many of my dear readers have tasted Georgian wine?  I've had only a small, but imperfect tasting (from a plastic cup, in the early hours of a Monday morning, after myriad flavoured vodkas) of a sweet Georgian wine made from the Saperavi grape.  So when I spotted a Saperavi in the "fine and rare" section of the John Lewis food hall (also available from Waitrose Wine online and Ocado) in my first week in London, seeing it was on special offer at the time, I couldn't resist popping it into my basket.  This 2007 Orovela is one of just 8880 bottles made in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains.  Orovela is apparently a kind of Georgian ploughing song, which could be heard echoing through the hillsides in days of yore.  Luckily now, it's an accessible brand of wine that means we don't have to go to a specialist.

The initial impression is instantly interesting.  Dark ruby in colour, there's a pleasing acidity.  It's a heavyweight of a wine, but the acidity lifts it, making it more refreshing than it may otherwise have been.  It's got a deep blackberry and black cherry flavour tinged with spice and oaky, smokey highlights. The velvety tannins are well integrated and give backbone to the medium body. The acidity stops the tannins being too astringent. This wine could probably age for many years, but it won't get the chance in my home. Conditions aren't ideal for extended storage. There's not much space and there are two avid wine drinkers on the loose.

Mr Purple Teeth returned from his pub excursion and declared it a hit.  I'm not sure he'll be replacing his number one slot of Left Bank Bordeaux with this one, but he enjoyed exploring a second glass.

What makes this wine different?

Aside from the fact that it's not from the normal wine regions likely to feature on your home wine racks, the Saperavi variety has another unusual characteristic.  It's made from a "Teinturier" grape variety and is one of the few single varietals made from this type of grape.  The term teinturier comes from the French to dye or to stain. It means the grape flesh is pigmented just like the skin.  Most of the red wines we drink come from black grapes where the pulp is actually green, and the colour comes from the juice's skin contact alone.

The Saperavi grape is one of the oldest cultivars in Georgia where it originated.  It's consistently been one of the big commercial successes from the region and, perhaps due to it's ability to stand up to tough weather conditions, experimental plantings are appearing in the Finger Lakes area of New York and also in Austrlia.  Maybe we'll see more of it in future.  But if you fancy a taste of 8000 years of wine history, for less than £17 and delivered to your door by Ocado, then pop a bottle of this in your virtual shopping basket.  If you love big dark red wines which pack a punch but still hold some elegance, I'm sure you'll be happy with your very own version of archeology.

Merry Christmas and Cheers to all our readers!


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