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Georgia claims 6,000 years, at least, of winemaking history, and it is certain that civilisation, by which I mean the enjoyment of wine, began not far away. An extremely turbulent history with combative neighbours outside and in has not dulled the locals’ joie de vivre and enjoyment of wine, music and excellent food for which the climate is so well suited.

Georgians
traditionally
fermented
their wines
in large clay
amphorae, or
qvevri, buried
in the ground.

Georgians traditionally fermented their wines in large clay amphorae, or qvevri, buried in the ground. They still do. Recently, however, this tradition has been a mixed blessing because the trendy ‘natural wine’ movement has turned wines made this way, well or incompetently, into a fad. The reality is that winemaking in amphorae requires exceptional diligence, cleanliness, and attention to detail. Bacterial spoilage and oxidation are ever-present threats and do not improve the taste of the wine.

As a distinguished wine scientist once said, ‘God did not intend to make wine. He wanted to make vinegar!’ What you achieve when you make wine with scrupulous care in amphorae is certainly extremely different from what we are used to, but, if well-made, is stable and long-standing. Whites, which are left longer in the amphorae, take on more colour and develop intense, racingly dry flavour. Reds, which are drawn off sooner and which have greater tannic protection, benefit in a more recognisable way and reveal that the local saperavi grape is one to cultivate, watch and drink.

Two new Georgian wines can be found on the new List: a medium-dry intense white from the mtsvane grape Mtsvane, Georgian Dry White, Schuchmann, 2014 (ref N-GG11, £7.95) and Saperavi, Kakhetian Dry Red, Vinoterra 2014 (ref N-GG21, £10.95) made by the traditional method of fermentation in qvevri.

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