Georgia: "An Oenological Marvel", Claims Club Oenologique
The esteemed British wine magazine, Club Oenologique, has recently showcased Georgia's rich winemaking tradition in its pages. Authored by David Kermode, a notable wine journalist who also hosts the weekly program, 'The Drinking Hour', the piece shines a spotlight on Georgia's vast array of indigenous grape varieties.
"Georgia, though diminutive in size, brims with beauty and is unlike any country I've visited. Its unique blend of hospitality, culinary diversity, and most notably, its 525 local grape varieties, make it stand out," Kermode writes.
He goes on to explore the influence of the Soviet era, stating, "Despite vineyards and operations being under Soviet control, Georgians tenaciously preserved their distinct grape varieties. This resilience transformed Georgia into an oenological treasure trove." Presently, of the 525 Georgian grape varieties identified, 35 are utilized commercially, with wines from about 10 of these making their way to UK shelves. The article points out that the white Rkatsiteli and red Saperavi grapes dominate Georgian vineyards, accounting for 90% of its expanse. "Saperavi is incredibly versatile, yielding a spectrum of wine styles and its hue draws comparisons with the likes of Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz," adds Kermode.
For the seasoned journalist, the white grape, Kis, reminiscent of Sauvignon, and the green, akin to Chardonnay, stand out. Kermode delves deeper into 'kvevri', the traditional Georgian winemaking vessel, elucidating its method and unique characteristics. "A mere 10-15% of Georgian wines owe their character to the kvevri, giving rise to the renowned amber wines which are often subtle and velvety, bearing floral and nutty notes. When used for red wines, kvevri imparts a richer texture," he explains, subsequently endorsing the 2022 Kvevri Saperavi from Shilda. "It's a vibrant, aromatic blend with berry, cherry, and plum undertones. The wine is youthful, full of verve, and simply spellbinding," Kermode comments.
Statistical data shows a decline in Georgian wine exports to the UK. From January to May, exports amounted to 95,725 liters, a stark drop from the 213,955 liters in the same period the previous year. Financially, this equates to a decrease from $880,453 to $484,600 — a 45% reduction. It's worth noting that post-Brexit, the UK has lifted several of the EU's alcohol-related restrictions, giving British importers more leeway, including the importation of sweet and semi-sweet wines. This change aims to diversify the UK market and foster smoother interactions between suppliers and importers.