Georgia: A Mecca of some of the World’s Finest Wine
If your wine lands you in the UNESCO’s heritage list, then you must have one hell of a story to tell. Such is the case of Georgia, whose winemaking is recognized by UNESCO as one of the entries in its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a project intended to recognize different cultural traditions around the world.
With viticulture that dates as far back as 7000 BC, this feat is not surprising. The Georgians pride themselves in preserving the practice of aging wines in jars called Kvevri. This jar is peculiarly shaped, and rather than sitting upright, it looks like it is resting on its side. This design is believed to be crucial in keeping a more even temperature inside the vessel.
Ancient Art vs Modern Science
There have been reservations about the hygienic factors regarding the ancient Georgian method of wine aging. Given the advancements of modern winemaking today, using a primitive process seems questionable, but even an age-old routine has been tweaked to suit the needs of modern times, especially in the field of health standards. For sanitation purposes, the inside of a kvevri is lined with beeswax. Lime is also used to clean the vessel after dispensing its contents.
Remarkably, there is a growing group of wine drinkers who find this particular method to be appealingly genuine. The sheer novelty of processing and then pouring wine from a kvevri makes aficionados quiver with delight. Local winemakers do export these bottles to wine cellars worldwide and have garnered favorable reviews from those who have tasted the tipple, especially during the Soviet times.
Conquering a Scandal with Creativity and Quality
What some pundits find puzzling about Georgian wine is its modest presence in the modern wine scene in spite of its long history and inclination towards old practices. Its quality, after all, is undeniable. Unfortunately, Georgia’s wine trade was hampered with a scandal, and its effects are still being felt up to this day. Unscrupulous fellows mislabeled wines made outside of the nation as Georgian wine and exported them to Russia and other countries.
Having enjoyed Georgian tipple for decades, the Russians suddenly grew suspicious and eventually caught wind of the scandal. Add to that was the political tension between the two countries. Sanctions were handed out by Russia in 2006, which significantly reduced the volume of exported bottles. What’s worse is the image that it painted on Georgian wine, including the genuine ones; nobody wanted anything to do with counterfeit wine.
Georgians had to be creative and look past the biggest importers of their products. If they have trouble shipping bulks to Russia, there are other countries that might still be interested. And that they did. They still sent products to Russia, but also focused on covering the regions in the European Union as well as the United States. It was a winning strategy.
Currently, Georgia is the second largest wine producer among the nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, producing 13 million to a little over 15 million bottles in the past few years. Nearly 11 million bottles were exported to countries like Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and Latvia.
Furthermore, efforts have been stepped up to promote Georgian wine around the world. About nine winemakers from the country joined the Boston Wine Expo last February 2015. The event also featured a special session about Georgian wine, which can help address the effects of bottles labeled as counterfeit products. Sampling different wine varieties puts any doubts of connoisseurs to rest since authentic Georgian wine is among the best in the world.
Viticulture in Georgia
One look at the countryside and you will understand why wine is revered in this place. With a fertile land, healthy climate, and good irrigation systems, Georgia is a winemaker’s playground. The land happens to be home to the most number of varietals in the world, amounting to around 400 grape varieties.
Summers are warm and not too hot while the winters don’t yield frost, making the terrain versatile enough to carry a wide variety of grapes. Moist air coming from the Black Sea furthers the healthy condition for viniculture. To streamline the quality and the types of wine produced, winemakers center on around 40 varietals from the 400 and tend to them lovingly.
Fine Georgian Wines
There are a lot of fine wines to choose from in Georgia. The choices available are often the dilemma wine lovers face. In the effort to narrow down the list, they came up with different wine categories.
Semi-sweet wines are the most popular ones, and are typically crafted from a combination of two or more varietals.
For white wine, the common choices are Pirosmani (a multi-award winner), Tvishi (another multi-award winner), Saamo (sweet), Kakheti, and the Alazani.
For red wine, people often line up for several award winning wines such as Akhasheni (won gold medals in international competitions), Khvanchkara (gold medal winner internationally), Muzukani, Sachino, Usakhelauri and Kindzmarauli.