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Georgian Wine Day

Georgian Wine Day

By Taste Georgia

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October 1st marks the beginning of one of the most important months in the Republic of Georgia. In Georgian, October is Ghvinobistve which means “month of wine.” It’s during this month that harvest is at its height, and the countryside is full of people picking grapes and enjoying the meals and parties that go along with harvest.  The harvest festival is called Rtveli which is a traditional harvest festival with all the works; feasts (supra), music and dance.  October is a month of celebration and this year the festivities commence with Georgian Wine Day on October 4th, 2015. The events in the Republic of Georgia are organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Wine Agency and will include events throughout the country and in Tbilisi.

If you aren’t in Georgia, you can still take part on Sunday.  Open those special bottle of Georgian wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion and lets us know about it via social media with the tag #GeorgianWineDay. I will be using Storify to save and share posts with this hashtag.

If you aren’t convinced that October 4th is a special enough day to open those bottles you are hoarding, remember that we are celebrating the birthplace of wine, more than 8000 vintages and a continuation of the oldest wine culture in the world.  I think its worth a bottle or two to pay homage to Georgia and our beloved ghvino.

Remember wine is a celebration of life, its a connection of people, to history and above all to the earth.

Gaurmajos!

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The Best Wine Bars in Tbilisi

The Best Wine Bars in Tbilisi

By Taste Georgia

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Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, is a fun and exciting city for travellers to enjoy its rich tapestry of colliding cultures, eat fantastic Georgian cuisine and drink wine from all of Georgia’s wine regions. As the capital of the land that gave us wine 8000 years ago, it’s no surprise that Tbilisi offers up some of the best wine bars in the country. Here are my top four…

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Adjika Will Bring World Peace: Apricot Adjika Jam

Adjika Will Bring World Peace: Apricot Adjika Jam

By Taste Georgia

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Vendor at the market in Tbilisi who sells decent adjika paste. Whenever friends ask me why I fell in love with Georgia, my natural and unscripted response is, “It felt like coming home.” I am not Georgian, I don’t have any familial ties to the country and I don’t speak the language but I still find so many aspects of Georgian culture vaguely familiar to me. This love affair started the first morning of my first trip to Georgia in March 2014. I organized a visit to the Market in Tbilisi, and I was hooked. Of course I had never eaten a churchkela or pickled flowers before, but I sensed an immediate connection that’s brought me back six times in the past year. It may seem like an odd fit. I am a southern California girl who lives in the Roman countryside. I had no personal interest in Georgia beyond its wine before I visited. Most of my fellow Georgiaphiles came to Georgia in some round about way through Russia.

Maybe they had an interest in the Russian empire, the Russian language or the Soviet Union. I certainly don’t speak Russian and never studied anything about the Russian Empire or the USSR except what was required in my humanities classes. I came for the wine initially, but the flavors and personalities of the Georgian table brought me to a familiar place of aromas, textures and spices.

As a San Diegan, I grew up in the Cold War 70s and 80s on a pretty typical Anglo Saxon diet of processed food made by my Australian mom. We had diversity, but it came from a seasoning packets. I don’t have a romantic food story. I grew up working class and my parents worked 14 to 16 hours a day. Fast food and packaged food were normal and convenient for my working mom. I was the typical latch key kid of the 80s. I made boxed mac & cheese for myself. Though we did have a typical American diet of processed food, it was supplemented by fresh garden vegetables (from my dad), tropical fruit (my mom’s homage to her tropical homeland), copious amounts of Mexican food at friends’ homes and midnight taco runs or casual dining in Old Town. San Diego is not a WASP enclave. It’s a border city and the food scene reflects that. For me, this meant at a young age I was already quite familiar with the difference between salsa verde and salsa fresca, I knew the taste of fresh cilantro, the texture of corn husks for tamales and the mouth feel of coarsely ground corn meal. I could identify many different types of red, green, yellow and orange hot peppers and knew their hotness scale. It was a combination of textures and ingredients that were vaguely familiar to me in Georgia. Mexican and Georgian cuisines are diverse and vary according to region and seasonality. Both rely heavily on aromatic herbs and spices, beans, corn meal, and spicy and sour sauces to compliment the meals.

When I was a kid I felt different than most of my classmates- my parents were foreigners with weird accents and I ate strange food (hello Vegemite sandwiches), so I always seemed to seek out the other odd kids. Those of us with funny parents always seemed to find each other. In first grade my best friend was Rosa, a first generation girl whose parents were from Mexico. In 5th grade my best friend was Lorelei whose mom was from Belgium. We were the ones with the funny lunches. We sat together. These relationships inevitably exposed me to a new world of flavors and textures I would have never had otherwise. Pico de Gallo is often refereed as a fresh salsa, but in some parts of Mexico it refers to a fruit salad with dried hot chilies, lime juice, aromatic herbs and salt. I first had dried pico de gallo rub at my friend Rosa’s house. I often ended up at her house after school, which meant I tasted the deliciously exotic-to-me food her mom gave us. Cold papaya with a squeeze of lime sprinkled with dry pico de gallo… an explosion of heat and flavors. First cool fruit, then the red pepper would hit the front and back of the tongue and the heart would start to race, then this was followed by sour and salty sweetness from the juicy fruit. To this day, I prefer a fruit salad with salt and chili peppers.

When I was a kid I felt different than most of my classmates- my parents were foreigners with weird accents and I ate strange food (hello Vegemite sandwiches), so I always seemed to seek out the other odd kids. Those of us with funny parents always seemed to find each other. In first grade my best friend was Rosa, a first generation girl whose parents were from Mexico. In 5th grade my best friend was Lorelei whose mom was from Belgium. We were the ones with the funny lunches. We sat together. These relationships inevitably exposed me to a new world of flavors and textures I would have never had otherwise. Pico de Gallo is often refereed as a fresh salsa, but in some parts of Mexico it refers to a fruit salad with dried hot chilies, lime juice, aromatic herbs and salt. I first had dried pico de gallo rub at my friend Rosa’s house. I often ended up at her house after school, which meant I tasted the deliciously exotic-to-me food her mom gave us. Cold papaya with a squeeze of lime sprinkled with dry pico de gallo… an explosion of heat and flavors. First cool fruit, then the red pepper would hit the front and back of the tongue and the heart would start to race, then this was followed by sour and salty sweetness from the juicy fruit. To this day, I prefer a fruit salad with salt and chili peppers.

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Apriots and Adjika

This combination of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors with spicy aromas is the element of Georgian food I adore most. It brings me to a familiar place, to my childhood, a place only the table can evoke. It is this sense of familiarity between the Mexican and Georgian kitchen and my love of ripe fruit and pico de gallo that gave birth to this Adjika Apricot Jam. It was inspired by my friend Sarah Freeman who traveled with me to Georgia in May. She told me she was going to make a peach pie with adjika paste. A light went off in my head: Peach and Adjika Chutney? Adjika and fruit? It sounded perfect and brought me back to my love of fruit and spice, and this idea I have had for awhile: that a Georgian Mexican fusion kitchen would work perfectly. When I came home I immediately sprinkled some adjika on freshly harvest apricots from my tree. Perfect. Ideas spinning in my head finally brought me back to Mexican fruit salad and Indian chutney.

Georgian food is ultimately a fusion kitchen with influences from all over Eurasia. This is why many people will refer to international kitchens when they first encounter Georgian food. I have always said the Georgian kitchen is a kitchen of ingredients you already know with different combinations of flavors making it completely unique. Which brings me to my Adjika Apricot Jam. Something new but familiar.

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Apricots fresh from the tree

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I have an enormous apricot tree that is sagging with ripe apricots at the moment, and I am just back from Georgia with a cupboard full of various spices and herbs including four versions of adjika. Upon research, I have come to learn that it originated in the break away region of Abkhazia, and is considered particularly good in the Georgian region of Megrelia. There are as many versions of adjika as there are grandmas. My friend Anastasia is now producing and marketing adjika salts in Sweden and England. They range in style from thick paste, sauce to dry “rub” and in color from bright green and red to a brownish green and orange toned red. The most common ingredients are hot chillies, garlic, dried marigold, barberry, summer savory, and coriander. Some call for all or some ingredients and other ingredients not listed. I love Anastasia’s adjika salt and it has become a staple in my kitchen, but I didn’t want to use a salted version, so I decided to use a dry red adjika I bought in the ancient city of Mtskheta.

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My apricot adjika jam

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I used one kilo of apricots from my tree and followed this apricot jam recipe. To this recipe I added :3 heaping tablespoons of adjika I cracked the kernels of 4 apricots and added them to the jars. I would use any recipe for apricot jam you like and add the adjika to taste. I really love David Lebowitz recipe, though I would not add the lemon juice. Familiar, and still Georgian using my own fruit.

COPYRIGHT: NO PART OF THIS POST; TEXT OR PHOTOS CAN BE REPRODUCED OR USED WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR.If you are interested in food tours and travel in Georgia, contact us.

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Pét Nat Craze Hits Georgia

Pét Nat Craze Hits Georgia

By Taste Georgia

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Living dangerously. Iago opens his first sparkling wine
Natural wine aficionados will no doubt be familiar with the term “Pét Nat” which is short for Pétillant Natural, a style of sparkling wine otherwise known as Methode Ancestrale, a traditional style of sparkling wine production that dates back centuries, a style of wine that is becoming more and more popular at natural wine fairs throughout Europe. As natural wine producers from Georgia have been attending these fairs for a number of years, it was only a matter of time before this style of wine should make a debut in the homeland of wine itself. Just as the foreign influence of female wine makers on Georgian wine has produced a new generation of women in wine, Georgians are embracing this Pet Nat style and making great wines. Georgians have a special and notable talent for maintaining tradition while progressively working towards the future. Wine is about people and communication, and it is exciting that a country with an 8000+ year wine history is open to the influence of wine styles from across the globe.

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Pétillant Natural wines are sparkling wines that have been made for centuries in Europe and are often refereed to as farmhouse sparkling wine. It is a very simple style of wine making that results in deliciously fresh and lightly sparkling wines, perfect for what meteorologists are predicting will be Europe’s hottest summer since the deadly 2003. The basic method is allowing the wine to ferment normally, but before fermentation is completed vignerons bottle the wine while there are still sugars that haven’t fermented yet, and fermentation continues in the closed bottle. The reconditioning in the bottle creates CO2 that has nowhere to escape and voila! Bubbles! Usually wine makers choose to leave the yeast in the bottle (often labeled sur lie), so these wines are often not as clear as their more commercial cousins Champagne and Prosecco. Unlike the Champagne method or Charmat method produced sparkling wines, no additional yeasts or sugars are added. Fermentation is completed in the bottle.

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It turns out that a French man by the name of Vincent Jullien was the first to make Pétillant Natural wine in Georgia. He was at the tasting and was a delightful addition to our group of wine lovers and vignerons. He was charming and an obviously well integrated foreign addition to the natural wine movement in Georgia. I asked him why he wanted to make a Pet Nat in Georgia and he said he wanted to be able to make a wine with zero added sulfites. With grapes from Ateni, a region with limestone soils that create wines high in acidity that is perfect for both sparkling wine and natural wine.

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We started the tasting with two Pet Nats I brought from Italy then moved onto three Georgians. There are currently four producers making this style in Georgia and we got to taste four of them. Three at Vino Underground and one at Iago’s a couple of days later. Two were made from qvevri wine and the other two were made in stainless steel. All were well made and very pleasant to drink, and I hope to see them in the western markets soon. On a personal level I really enjoyed the earthy quality the qvevri imparted on the wines, and I learned that every Georgian wine I like doesn’t have to be an orange wine. I have come to prefer wine made from the Chinuri grape without skin contact.

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  • Okro’s Wine, Mtsvane-Jon Okruashvili of Okro’s Wine was the first of this new generation of vignerons to make a qvevri pet nat. We tasted his Mtsvane, but I have also tasted his Rkatsiteli. John crushed the grapes and started fermentation in qvevri and then after 14 or 15 days when the brix level reached 2.5, he bottled it for fermentation. Golden apples, toasty notes, earthiness with racy acidity and bubbles that danced on the tongue. It was well rounded and well balanced.
  • Jakelli, Chinuri and Mtsvane Goruli-Malkhaz is more well known for his delightfully wonderful Saperavi, but his Pet Nat is certainly a wine to look out for. It is made with 60% Chinuri and 40% Goruli Mtsvane. He fermented in tanks until the brix level reached 2 and then bottled for reconditioning the bottle. There is no skin contact, so this is a well made white wine with a tropical nose, ripe apples and minerality, a really enjoyable wine for the summer. I hope it is on the market soon.
  • Art Villa Garikula, Chinuri and Mtsvane Goruli-Vincent Jullien is a French man who married a Georgian women and is the man responsible for bringing the pét nat craze to Georgia. Like Malkhaz he makes his with a Chinuri/Goruli blend in Ateni. Made in steel tanks and then reconditioned in the bottle and disgorged, so his wine is not sur lie (on the yeasts). It was the most elegant of the four wines, with more of a suggestion of must aroma and citrus. On the palate it had just the slightest residual sugar that danced on the tongue. A truly well made wine.
  • Iago’s Winery, Chinuri- I tasted this wine back in December when Ettore and I visited, so the reconditioning the bottle was not yet completed and the wine was still more on the grape juice side than wine. On a more recent day trip to Kartli, our final winery stop was at Iago’s winery where we tasted a number of his wines including his now gorgeous 100% Chinuri pét nat. This wine was like drinking a song. Iago made the wine without skin contact in the qvevri and when the wine reached about 2 or 3 brix he bottled it. Really well balanced, fresh and toasty notes, with a firm earthiness that I have come to associate with wine made in qvevri
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Thank you so much to Ramaz Nikoladze and Malkhaz Jackelli for answering my countless messages on Facebook about how pét nats are made. It took a tasting in Georgia for me to finally comprehend. Thanks so much Ramaz for setting up this tasting! Thanks to all the vignerons for sharing their wine expertise. It was a wonderful and informative evening.

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NO PART OF THIS BLOG POST CAN BE COPIED OR REPRODUCED WITHOUT AUTHOR PERMISSION.

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Rare Georgian Wines at the 2015 New Wine Festival in Tbilisi

Rare Georgian Wines at the 2015 New Wine Festival in Tbilisi

By Taste Georgia

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“Other Varieties”

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I attended the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Tbilisi New Wine Festival on the 8th of May as a guest of the Georgian Wine Club. The stunning views over the city from the hosting Funicular Restaurant were certainly magnificent, a perfect choice to open this now annual event. This year’s theme was “Other Varieties” and included a tasting led by Malkhaz Kharbedia of the

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Gorgeous view of Tbilisi from the Funicular restaurant

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Malkhaz explained that the 2015 edition was dedicated to rare wine and rare varieties, and that the idea behind the fair was to hold an event that was both hedonistic and educational. The Wine Club, in collaboration with the Georgian National Wine Agency, has plans to organize a wine library of Georgian grape varieties and wines. During the Soviet period in Georgia, only 16 types of wines were allowed to be made commercially and they all were numbered 1-16. Wine making was part of a scheme of collectivism, as was all agriculture during this period. Though families were allowed to make their own wines for home use, traditional wine making certainly suffered during this period, and the 500+ varieties were not appreciated and almost disappeared except for a few heroes in small pockets who saved them. You see, in Georgia, wine is more than a beverage; wine is culture, history and part of the Georgian identity. The heroes of Georgian wine are those who promote oenodiversity, traditional wine making. Events such as The New Wine Festival help Georgians reconnect to this collective heritage, and foreigners, like myself, are introduced to new wines and vigneronswe might not have otherwise heard. The fair brings together the larger commercial producers, the family wine makers and the qvevri wine makers to one park with the support of various agencies. It is a matter of national pride as well as an occasion to impress tourists at a really fun filled event.

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During the tasting at the opening ceremony, we tasted 10 wines made from rare Georgian grape varieties. Six of the 10 were produced in qvevri. Most were well made, two were absolutely gorgeous and two were nearly undrinkable.

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Whites

Kisi (grape)

Lukasi (producer)
Kakheti (region)
2014 (vintage)
Lovely clear lemon yellow. Citrus, honey and steel on the nose. Tastes of citrus, very fresh with a long finish. Very well balanced. A well made wine that can age for a couple of years.

Chkhaveri

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Iberieli
Guria
2011
This was my favorite white wine of the evening. This wine is made by Zurab Topuridze , who makes wine in Guria. I was surprised this was a 2011 because it was so fresh. Clear medium golden color. Aromas of orange zest, apricot, stone fruit, sweet spices. Taste is round and fresh, very well balanced with a long finish. This was evolved particularly well in the glass and on the palate. I kept going back to it.

Chekobali

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Jigaura
Samegrelo
2013
Clear lemon color. Very tropical aromas that reminded me of an Alsace Pinot Gris. Dry as a bone, fresh, medium finish.  It was strong on the front of the palate, but strength quickly dissipated in the mouth, not a lot of body or steam in the wine.

Chkapa (qvevri)

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Giorgi Barisashvili’s Marani
Kartli
2013
Lovely, clear amber colo0r.  Aromas of vanilla, dried summer fruits (figs, apricots), truffles, dairy, cheese, floral perfume.  Medium acidity, warm on the palate, medium body.  Well balanced, medium finish.

Khikhvi (qvevri)

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Satsnakheli
Kakheti
2014
Light, clear amber color. Smells of apples, earth and cider. Fresh and tannic with a rich full body.  Medium finish. Not particularly noteworthy.
Reds

Rosé Rkatsiteli (qvevri)

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Pheasant’s Tears
Kakheti
2013
The smell of horses/barnyard was overwhelming in this wine and made it almost impossible to evaluate. The color was a lovely salmon pink. Taste was fresh but there was a high amount of residual sugar. Strong on the attack phase but little evolution on the palate.

Jgia (qvevri)

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Tsikhelishvili’s Marani
Kakheti
2013
I was so excited about this wine and grape that I sent a Tweet to José Vouillamoz of Wine Grapes to confirm that I had found one not in his wine grape encyclopedia. It was the forth I have found that is made commercially. This wine was my favorite wine of the event and not just for the novelty of being rare.  It was a fantastic and well made wine. Beautiful clear ruby red. Aromas of forest berries, cedar, tobacco, cherries, balsamic notes. Very complex nose. Taste was fresh with juicy tannins, full body and long finish. Well balanced and just delicious, a wine for meditation.

Tavkveri (qvevri)

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Pheasant’s Tears
Mukhrani
2013
Youth purple red color. Aromas of berries and dark soil masked by reduction aromas. Undrinkable.

Simonaseuli

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Jigaura
Kakheti
2013

I was intrigued to learn that this variety was quite popular before the 20th century. Beautiful ruby red color. Aromas of wild berries, green notes that made me think it was fermented with stems, and a hint of strawberries. Fresh, full-bodied, smooth tannins, wild berries on the palate, with a long finish. A well made and well balanced wine.The grapes were late harvest. Lovely ripe berries, a bit jammy even. Meat or animal aromas, wool followed by minerality. It was quite fresh, soft tannins, ripe berries, and a medium finish. A good and well structured wine.

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Good work, sister: The rise of women wine makers in Georgia

Good work, sister: The rise of women wine makers in Georgia

By Taste Georgia

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Special thanks to Erica Firpo for helping me with the title

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Marina and Tea of Mandili presenting their wine at Vignaioli Naturali a Roma 2015 an annual natural wine fair in Rome >Last spring I met Georgia’s first female owned wine company and have had the privilege of following them for an entire year, from vineyard to qvevri, to bottling. In Georgia, men have traditionally been in control of the 8,000 year old qvevri wine making process, so these women, along with another young woman named Mariam Iosebidze who started her own wine company in 2014, are at the forefront of a change in culture and attitudes towards women in Georgia. I have interviewed these women and tasted their wine and I would like to share their stories over the next few months. For now, a short introduction to the First Ladies of Georgian wine; Marina Kurtanidze and Tea Melanashvili of Mandili. To preface, Tea is my very good friend, she is simply someone I adore, and Marina is a dear friend as well who is a force to be reckoned with. Besides friendship, they have been a big part of my shift in thinking about how women in the west view women in other parts of the world. In short, we believe that we have it better and that those “other” women are not as liberated. Before I went to Georgia, I was told that it was an extremely sexist country where women were not treated well and that, in fact, I should avoid going there. So during my first trip, I made a few cultural faux pas having this attitude in the back of my head. I met Tea at Vino Underground, a wine bar in Tbilisi that focuses on natural wines, and learned that she was one of Georgia’s first female wine makers. I was intrigued. How could it be possible in this country? We tasted her wine, and I was hooked. Not only was I impressed with Tea for making strides in the wine world, I was impressed with her wine, Mandili. Mandili was established in 2012 as a collaboration between two friends who were inspired by female vignerons- such as Elizabetta Foradori -that Georgian producers have met at the European natural wine fairs. Marina is married to Iago Bitarishvili of Iago’s Winery, so she has been a part of the wine making process for her entire life in everything but name. In fact, it was her husband, Iago, who first encouraged Marina to make wine. The name Mandili means a ladies scarf (or veil), and their label depicts a woman dancing with a scarf. The team decided to purchase organic mtsvane grapes from Kakheti and bring them to marani in Kartli where they made their wine in qvevri. Their first wine was an incredible success, not only for the innovation in traditional wine making in Georgia but the wine was of extremely high quality. Both women explained that they wanted to make a wine that was both Georgian and also conveyed the essence of creation by women. They chose the mtsvane grape because they both really love wines made from that grape and they were able to buy wines from very healthy vineyards. They weren’t alone in the process. They had the help of friends and encouragement from fellow qvevri producers. In fact, they did not experience any kind of negativity in the tight knit wine community in Georgia and have only had encouragement from their colleagues and friends. Both Tea and Marina told me about the anxiety of waiting for their wine while it aged in the qvevri for 6 months. Unlike modern styles of wine, a winemaker making wine in qvevri can’t check and taste the wine on a regular basis. After fermentation is completed, the qvevri is sealed and it is a waiting game. They are not the first to describe waiting for their wine as akin to waiting for the birth of a child. They were anxious to know if it was good, what it would taste like and would it taste like “their” wine. In qvevri winemaking you have to trust in Mother Nature to move things along at

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Marina and Tea of Mandili presenting their wine at

Vignaioli Naturali a Roma 2015 an annual natural wine fair in Rome >Last spring I met Georgia’s first female owned wine company and have had the privilege of following them for an entire year, from vineyard to qvevri, to bottling. In Georgia, men have traditionally been in control of the 8,000 year old qvevri wine making process, so these women, along with another young woman named Mariam Iosebidze who started her own wine company in 2014, are at the forefront of a change in culture and attitudes towards women in Georgia. I have interviewed these women and tasted their wine and I would like to share their stories over the next few months. For now, a short introduction to the First Ladies of Georgian wine; Marina Kurtanidze and Tea Melanashvili of Mandili. To preface, Tea is my very good friend, she is simply someone I adore, and Marina is a dear friend as well who is a force to be reckoned with. Besides friendship, they have been a big part of my shift in thinking about how women in the west view women in other parts of the world. In short, we believe that we have it better and that those “other” women are not as liberated. Before I went to Georgia, I was told that it was an extremely sexist country where women were not treated well and that, in fact, I should avoid going there. So during my first trip, I made a few cultural

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Marina and Tea of Mandili presenting their wine at

Vignaioli Naturali a Roma 2015 an annual natural wine fair in Rome >Last spring I met Georgia’s first female owned wine company and have had the privilege of following them for an entire year, from vineyard to qvevri, to bottling. In Georgia, men have traditionally been in control of the 8,000 year old qvevri wine making process, so these women, along with another young woman named Mariam Iosebidze who started her own wine company in 2014, are at the forefront of a change in culture and attitudes towards women in Georgia. I have interviewed these women and tasted their wine and I would like to share their stories over the next few months. For now, a short introduction to the First Ladies of Georgian wine; Marina Kurtanidze and Tea Melanashvili of Mandili. To preface, Tea is my very good friend, she is simply someone I adore, and Marina is a dear friend as well who is a force to be reckoned with. Besides friendship, they have been a big part of my shift in thinking about how women in the west view women in other parts of the world. In short, we believe that we have it better and that those “other” women are not as liberated. Before I went to Georgia, I was told that it was an extremely sexist country where women were not treated well and that, in fact, I should avoid going there. So during my first trip, I made a few cultural

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Mandili 2012-Isn’t she lovely? I was able to taste their 2014 Mandili before bottling, it took a bit of time to open up, but once it did, the power and life in that glass was evident. It will premier at he New Wine Festival in Tbilisi, March 9th, 2015. I will be there on the sidelines cheering for their success.

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For more information, contact me at Taste Georgia

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Special Tasting with Eko Glonti of Lagvinari in Rome

Special Tasting with Eko Glonti of Lagvinari in Rome

By Taste Georgia

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SOLD OUT!!

On Thursday, February 5 at 19:30 Beppe e i suoi formaggi will host producer Georgian wine producer Eko Glonti as he will personally present seven natural wines from Lagvinari, the company he founded in Kakheti. Eko Glonti, Gurian Renaissance man, doctor, geologist and vigneron makes some of the most exquiste wines in Georgia. His Tsolikouri is one of the best wines I have ever tasted. You can also find him featured in Isabelle Legeron’s film on Georgian wine.Georgia is one of the oldest centers of cultivation of the vine, as well as the country with the highest ampelographical diversity and thus the country with the highest amount of different grape varieties in the world. During the tasting Eko Glonti will discuss the production of his exquisite wines and also illustrate the technique of Georgian wine production in “qvevri” (amphorae), the oldest wine vessel int he world traced back to 6,000 BCE. Discover the birthplace of wine, Georgia, which boasts 8,000 years of uninterrupted wine making tradition. We will (re)discover the wines of ancient Georgia (Colchis) even in Homer’s Odyssey and in the Argonauts of Apollonius of Rhodes.We will have the event in both English and Italian. Dr. Glonti will guide us thorugh a tasting of the following seven wines: Tsolikouri-A golden yellow wine made in qvevri with 45 days of skin contact. Aromas of plums, stone fruit and apples as well as honeyed notes. Taste is fresh and highly acidic, which is typical of the grape. Long nutty finish, tastes of hazelnuts.Tsitska-Straw colored wine with aromas of citrus, pear and vegetation as well as honey aromas and melon. It is very lively and fresh. Produced in qvevri. Krakhuna-Amber in color, fermented and aged in qvevri, plums, peaches, honey and dates as well as hazelnut and cake. It is very lively and complex on the palate with nutty flavors that end with a touch of honey flavor. Goruli Mtsvane-Amber/copper in color, nutty aromas, herbal notes, peach tea, stone fruit, Very pleasant taste that is fresh but with rather structured tannins. Aladusturi-Pale cherry color. Aladusturi is a thin skinned grape Sour cherries, herbal notes, and sweet spices as well as berries. It is a rather elegant wine with a long cherry finish. Otskhanuri Sapere-Beetroot red in color. Very aromatic and sharp aromas of berries, with wild and green notes as well. as well as balsamic notes. It is a highly acidic wine that should be aged for a number of years. Evolves in the glass and in the bottle Saperavi-The only non qvevri wine of the line, Saperavi is a thick skin grape that means Dye. It is thick skinned and one of the few grapes on earth that also has pigment in the pulp. This creates extremely inky and deeply colored wines. Ripe cherries, wild berries, tobacco aromas, wild green notes, red currents, bitter walnuts. It is extremely complex n the nose and in the palate. It is very structured with juicy tannins and a fresh, long berry finish. Seven Georgian Wines Lagvinari: Tsitska – Tsolikouri – Goruli Mtsvane – Krkahuna – Aladusturi – Otskhanuri Knowing – Saperavi

For information on the tasting call 06 68192210 RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED!! PLEASE CALL!! The event is supported by the National Wine Agency, Georgia. For more information about Georgian wines: www.facebook.com/tastegeorgiawineand www.tastegeorgia.co

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Gaanatlos Ruben Tkeshelashvili!

Gaanatlos Ruben Tkeshelashvili!

By Taste Georgia

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Ruben Tkeshelashvili

Some knew him as “The General,” others, simply as Ruben.  He was a qvevri wine maker in Racha, a mountainous region in the Republic of Georgia known for a semi-sweet red wine called Khvanchara. Local legend says that Stalin was a fan of his wine. We were visiting Iago’s Winery last weekend when I happened to mention to my friend Irakli that he really needed to pay a visit to Ruben before he died. Iago told us he had died two days previous.  I think he was a national treasure.  I had the honor of visiting his marani last October with my Rachan guide Natia and my friend Nicoletta.  I went to Racha to lean how to make a bean pastry called lobiani, but I was also on a mission to meet Ruben.  We visited him unannounced one morning and he was there, in his camouflaged glory, grumbling to himself about the inconvenience.  A grumpy, opinionated old man whose eyes sparkled with the joy of living.

He was alone now, but he spoke proudly of his highly educated granddaughter who spoke perfect English.  His qvevri were buried under about a foot of mud. He placed some snacks on a table in his marani and then went to work to open one for us with the help of local young vigneron, Aleco Sardanashvili.  They poured the luscious and precious wine into a doki, with small glasses that resembled Turkish tea glasses, we toasted to our health, to Georgia, to our families and many other ideas and things.  Natia informed me we had to toast and accept the wine and to drink it with him or we would be breaking all the laws of hospitality.  By about 11am, I was completely inebriated.  He poured another doki, and we, his guests, had to toast.  Passing the toasting to another person in Georgian is called, Alaverdi (like the wine making monastery in Kakheti).

In short, it was a moment in my life that I will never forget. Visiting an old man in his 80s, who was still making traditional qvevri wine and honoring the ancient codes of Georgian hospitality-whose eyes had seen many changes in the world and who remained steadfast,-was an honor.  As the Georgians say- he has moved on.  The world will never have another like him. I am consoled knowing that there are young vignerons like Aleco Sardanashvili who continue this tradition in Racha.

Thank you to Natia for organizing this visit for me.  It was a huge honor.

 

GAANATLOS RUBEN!  May you rest in peace!

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Impossible Valais with José Vouillamoz

Impossible Valais with José Vouillamoz

By Taste Georgia

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Have you ever been to an event, where you had no idea why you were there, or why you were invited? One where you look around at the people and the atmosphere, and you think to yourself, “I am out of my league here.” This happened to me a few weeks ago. It was one of the most unique and riveting tastings of my wine career, with people I liked and admired, that was led and organized by one of the world’s leading ampelologists and wine sleuths; the highly celebrated co-author of Wine Grapes, José Vouillamoz. He called it Impossible Valais  and said it was the most exciting tasting he had ever organized. Whether I was worthy, I’m still unsure, but I was an interested student ready to soak up any and all information to the best of my ability. José Vouillamoz is the ultimate wine geek, in the best sense of the term. A botanist trained in grape genetics, he is a champion of rare grape

varieties, and willing to get his hands dirty in order to recover them Have you ever been to an event, where you had no idea why you were there, or why you were invited? One where you look around at the people and the atmosphere, and you think to yourself, “I am out of my league here.” This happened to me a few weeks ago. It was one of the most unique and riveting tastings of my wine career, with people I liked and admired, that was led and organized by one of the world’s leading ampelologists and wine sleuths; the highly celebrated co-author of Wine Grapes, José Vouillamoz. He called it Impossible Valais  and said it was the most exciting tasting he had ever organized. Whether I was worthy, I’m still unsure, but I was an interested student ready to soak up any and all information to the best of my ability. José Vouillamoz is the ultimate wine geek, in the best sense of the term. A botanist trained in grape genetics, he is a champion of rare grape varieties, and willing to get his hands dirty in order to recover them

He’s true to his craft, he’s a scientist, and his opinions are backed up by inarguable facts, but he’s also hilarious and is never short on great one-liners. With a witty tongue quicker than John Wayne’s trigger finger, he’s a breath of fresh air in the frequently stuffy and rigid wine community. When you are with him in a social setting, or at a tasting, you wish you’d brought an audio recorder to capture all his José-isms, (my term, I want to write a book based on these). We need him. The world’s best wine professionals descended on Montreux for the DWCC for a weekend of learning, and we can thank José Vouillamoz and his mission to put Swiss Wines on the map for schooling us all in their virtue and rarity. Thanks to José many of us look at Swiss wine through a new lens. 12 lucky participants had the opportunity to travel through his motherland for three days with him, tasting some of the best and rarest wines of Switzerland, beginning with the Impossible Valais tasting at Sensorama at Châteaude Villa in Sierre.

Though we’d all had ample opportunity to taste a multitude of Swiss wines over the weekend, I don’t believe any of us were emotionally prepared for the once-in-a-lifetime tasting that José called Impossible Valais.He explained that “impossible” referred to the rarity of the wines we’d taste. The wines bordered on the sublime, ranging from rare and “archaeological” grapes to the truly perfect 1971 Petite Arvine. Le Valais produces some of the most incredible wines I have ever tasted, but before the conference in Montreux and this trip, the only Swiss wine I ever had was young Fendant. I have since learned that Fendant/Chasselas should be considered a very serious wine. Yet, it is virtually impossible to find these gems outside of Switzerland. They export only 2% of the wines they produce and produce 0.2% of the world’s wine so it is no surprise that many people have no idea that Swiss wine even exists. The standing joke is that they export so little of their wine because it is so good that they (the Swiss) drink them all before the rest of the world has a chance.

I never knew that there was so much diversity, that white Swiss wines can age, and well. There is certainly nothing more educational than guided tastings and full immersion in a wine region. Now, after seeing the heroic vineyards and tasting the wines crafted by generous people, I am converted. Swiss wines verge on the magical, they are spirited and convey the essence of the land and people. Well crafted and generous. I hope that we will see more of these wines in the international market, without compromising their spirit. The wines we tasted at the Impossible Valais tasting were thoughtful, rare and the beginning of a very emotional wine love story.

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Wine: Arvine
Producer: Provins
Grape: Petite Arvine
Vintage: 1971
Notes: Exquisite wine that was everything about autumn poured into a glass. Marmalade, leaves, chestnuts, pumpkins, citrus along with figs, dates, quince and fermenting cheese. This was an extremely complex bouquet that I wanted to come back to. Despite its 43 years of age it was fresh and well balanced with the acid matched with an oily texture.

THE WINES

Wine: Plantscher
Producer: Chanton Kellerei
Grape: Gros Bourgogne
Vintage: 2007
Notes: Gros Bourgogne is indeed a rare grape, there are only .05 ha and only one producer, Chanton, who are at the center of rare grape preservation in Valais. Lovely golden yellow color with notes of apples, apricots, honey and chamomile. Fresh, dry and with a silky texture.

Wine: Amigne
Producer: Provins
Grape: Amigne
Vintage: 1967
Notes: Amigne is an grape from the Valais, there are 42 ha in the world and they are mostly near the town of Vétroz. I have to admit that I fell in love with this grape over the course of the conference and then this tasting. I find it quite exotic even when young. The 1967 was very pleasant and reminded me of distant lands. Candied fruit, Turkish delight, rose water, oranges, chestnuts and dates. It was pleasantly dry despite such sweet notes.

Wine: Amigne
Producer: Provins
Grape: Amigne
Vintage: 1967
Notes: Amigne is an grape from the Valais, there are 42 ha in the world and they are mostly near the town of Vétroz. I have to admit that I fell in love with this grape over the course of the conference and then this tasting. I find it quite exotic even when young. The 1967 was very pleasant and reminded me of distant lands. Candied fruit, Turkish delight, rose water, oranges, chestnuts and dates. It was pleasantly dry despite such sweet notes.

Wine: Johannisberg St-Théodule
Producer: Orsat
Grape: Silvaner
Vintage: 1955
Notes: 1955 is considered the vintage of the century in Switzerland. Orange peel, lilies, honey and baby powder. Extremely fresh and vibrant with long persistent citrus taste.

Wine: Rouge de Pays
Producer: Stéfano Délitroz
Grape: Rouge de Pays
Vintage: 2011
Notes: This is made from grapes from 80-year-old ungrafted vines that are erroneously called Cornalin in Switzerland. It was very “meaty” with a hint of chinotto, with lots of briny notes, like olives, which was reflected on the palate along with red berries. Rich tannins and full body with a persistent finish. A well balanced and meaty wine. I would like to taste it in about 10 years.

Wine: Côte Rotie La Torque
Producer: Guigal
Grape: Syrah
Vintage: 2001
Notes: We tasted two Syrahs blindly, one French and one Swiss All we knew going it was that one was French and one was Swiss. This one was more impressive for me but I think it was context. We had just tasted some serious wines, and I think my palate was much more responsive to this richer tasting wine at the time. Rich nose of berries, fennel pollen, licorice, wet stones, balsamic notes and pepper. On the palate it was juicy with really immense tannins. Very enjoyable wine.

Wine: Vieilles Vignes Syrah
Producer: Simon Maye & Fils
Grape: Syrah
Vintage: 2001
Notes: I think my nose and palate deceived me because my tasting notes are quite sparse after the first syrah. It had green notes, berries. It has less tannic than the first and I think suffered from reduction. Perhaps over the course of a few hours it would show better. I quite enjoyed tasting Syrah at the winery and in fact tasted the best Syrah I have ever tasted there.

Wine: Crystal Eyholzer Roter Eiswein
Producer: Chanton Kellerei
Grape: Eyholzer Roter
Vintage: 2008
Notes: One of the most unique wines I have ever tasted. Made from the Eyholzer Roter wine grape, an extremely rare grape with a unique DNA profile. Only .25 ha of it are produced by one producer. According to Wine Grapes, “ One ancient vine 150-250 years old, has been found near Visp, in the town of Stalden, and an even older one in the middle of the town of Sion, some 50 km from Visp.” Magnificent amber colour. Wild strawberries, freshly burnt sugar cane fields and molasses on the nose. Tastes confirms the nose. Strawberries, crème brûlée, opulent and sweet balanced by racy acidity that lingers. Long and intense finish. A superb wine.

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Orange Wine for Beginners

Orange Wine for Beginners

By Taste Georgia

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The sublime orange wine from the Alaverdi Monastery in Kakheti, Republic of Georgia

 

When I was first introduced to orange wine, I had no idea what to expect – is it wine flavored with orange peel? Is it some kind of more complex alcoholic beverage made from fermented oranges? Or is it none of the above? Turns out, it’s the latter. This trendy new wine phenomenon has nothing at all to do with citrus. Believe it or not, orange wine is made from the same white grapes that make traditional wine. Orange wine is, simply put, wine made from these white grapes, but produced and fermented like red. New to the world of wine as I am, however, I need more than the simple definition to gain an actual understanding of what orange wine is. When making a traditional white

wine, producers crush the grapes, immediately separating the juice from the skins before fermentation. When making a red wine, however, producers leave the grapes to macerate and ferment with their skins, a vital part of flavor development that contributes to the red wine’s color, texture, and bitterness. The discarded skins from white grapes contain color pigments and tannins that detract from the light and bright flavor typical of white wine. However, although leaving the grapes in contact with their skins doesn’t produce the “typical” flavor, it produces something equally desirable: a smoky, spicy, acidic, and orange wine that pairs well with almost all savory dishes. Although this wine trend may only recently be gaining popularity among modern wine enthusiasts, its roots can be traced back thousands of years to Armenia and Georgia. It’s how white wines used to be made, and it’s now experiencing a renaissance from wineries in northern Italy, Georgia, Croatia, Slovenia, and parts of France and California. If you sip an orange wine with the expectation that it will be light like a white, you will be entirely thrown off. That is why some people initially dislike the stronger, more pungent taste. These wines may take some getting used to; but even I enjoyed the complex flavors I tasted in the orange wine Sarah introduced me to at Litro. Orange wine is usually made in small quantities by small producers, so they don’t come cheap and cannot be picked up at your local supermarket. In researching online, I kept running into a few labels that reviewers frequently recommended – Gravner and Vodopivec from Italy, and Lagvinari from Georgia. If you can’t locate these, just find a natural wine bar and try a glass, served at cellar temperature, as a test run. If you try it with an open mind, I’m willing to bet that you will enjoy the indescribable flavors that explode from the smallest sip of orange wine. If you are interested in organizing a tasting of Orange Wine, please feel free to contact us.

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Realizing that I am used to orange wine at this point, I take it for granted that many wine consumers are not and this may make approaching them intimidating. Two weeks ago,  I asked Antiqua Tours intern Anna to write a short post to introduce these spectacular wines to the general public.  She did a great job!

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Taste Georgia at DWCC

Taste Georgia at DWCC

By Taste Georgia

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The Digital Wine Communications Conference is an annual conference that will take place in Montreux, Switzerland this year.  This will be the third conference I will be attending and the second I will be participating as a panel member.  On October 31st, I will be representing Georgian wine and Taste Georgia while pouring wine made in qvevri at the Disrupt Wine Talks reception between 18:00 and 19:30.

I will also be a panel member for a session called “Bloggers Without Blogs.” We will be talking about the effectiveness of social media in non blog form in the wine community.  This session will start at 9:30 on November 1st.

If you are at the conference and want to learn more about Georgian wine and food, please come say hi and taste the wines we are presenting.

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Roèt Vendemmia 2013

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Malvasia Puntinata is easily recognized by its lovely dots

Let me share with you how we roll in the Castelli Romani.  This is how the grapes get picked on a small farm to make a natural, organic wine for personal consumption.  We don’t have aprons.  And since we are organic, there are bees, wasps and mosquitoes who seem to be out with a vengeance. The sun burns the skin, we have to bend over backwards to make sure we do not miss one single precious grape.  And we get sticky.  It is gross.  Grape juice mixes with dirt and leaves to create a sort of sticky dirty film over the entire body.  Picking grapes is hard, back-breaking and sticky work.  Did I mention sticky?  Why anyone would volunteer to do this is beyond my comprehension.  I am picking this year because I will be paid in wine.  I feel so medieval, man.  Isn’t that, like, illegal?
We are picking now because the Malvasia Puntinata is ready.  It has good sugar levels and great acidity.  We are also picking Bellone and Trebbiano, but it is mostly a very juicy Malvasia Puntinata we are picking.  The sugar meter measures 18-19.  Not too bad for a homemade wine.  Due to cooler conditions this year the acidity is up, which is good for making a longer lasting wine.  But we don’t make a longer lasting wine, we make wine that we finish just when we are picking grapes again.
Tonight we are going to drink.  And we are going to drink a lot.  We have to drink the rest of last year’s wine to make way for the new.  And then we will rise early again tomorrow morning and do it all over again.  For the love of wine.

Buon Vendemmia a tutti!

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There are a lot of weeds in most of the organic vineyards in the Castelli Romani. This is because it was an extremely wet year and letting the grass and weeds grow helped the vines not get bogged down

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Malvasia Puntinata: Base grape of almost all Castelli Romani whites

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Roberto, the Ro of Roèt

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Destemming

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One of the oldest ways to make wine…

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A row of Bellone, it gives the Castelli wines softness.

p.s. Roèt is the combined efforts of ROberto and ETtore.  Made from Laziale grapes that are grown organicially and fermented with the skins with indigenous yeasts.  No sulphites added.  This is a traditional farmer’s wine, a pure natural wine made made with nature and hardwork.

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Wine Tasting in Rome

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A guest of Ettore’s just posted this photo on his Facebook page, so I thought I would share.  Not only do you learn about the fascinating world of Italian wine, you have fun while meeting fellow guests who share in an interest in wine.  When in Rome, join us for a great night and drink wine like the Roman’s do!

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Bibenda Day 2012

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I haven’t had much time for wine tasting lately.  I am studying for the Rome Guide Exam and it is more or less taking over my life.  I’ve attended a few tastings with our ladies tasting group and, recently, Bibenda Day at the Hotel Cavalieri.  I’ve posted about other tastings and events hosted by AIS on this blog, so I’ll spare you the details on what they are about.  These tastings are a great way to taste a great amount of wine in one space and get to know the regions and producers you really like without having to travel 100s of kilometers.

This years 46th Bibenda Day was a 2 day celebration of the organization in Rome with 430 produces of wine and food from all over Italy.  They also had special conference with winemakers in Italy and abroad.  I signed up for two, but due to a transportation strike and a mistake on my part I could not attend the Valentini tasting.  I did have the pleasure of not only taste some of the wines of Josko Gravner, I was able to spend two hours listening to him speak about his life, his approach to wine and his dear father.  You can read in more detail here at Katie Parla’s blog

My favorites for the evening were Benanti from Etna in Sicily, Skerk from Friuli Venezia Giulia and Josko Gravne from Friuli Venezia Giulia.  There were other great wines but these are the produces that stood out because of their unique approach to winemaking.   Of the 8 wines wer tasted at the Gravner conference 6 were fermented in Amphora.  We tried Breg 1998 and 2005 and Ribolla from 2000-2005.
These wines were intense and full of character and differed great from each year.  Gravner spoke a lot about weather and conditions of each year, and since there is very little intervention on his part there is a lot of variation from each year.  So much mineality in all of them.  They were alive.
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The Tasting Room

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Some of the delicious food

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Benanti pour-beautiful wines with tons of mineality and very lively

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Benanti pour-beautiful wines with tons of mineality and very lively

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Josko Gravner

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Copper wines of great complexity and intensity

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Breg 2005 (blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling)

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Why this color?  Even though they are made with “white” grapes he ferments with the skins which not only extracts color but tannins, which give these wines longevity.  Conventional wines differ because red wines are fermented with the skins of dark grapes white wines are white because they are fermented without skins.  The also extracts intense aromas and flavors.

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When you go to an AIS tasting,don’t forget your suit.