Everywhere you turn these days, enthusiasts are talking about Georgian wine. While the category might be new to you, these robust bottles have had a presence in Boston for at least the last five years. That’s just a blink of an eye when you learn that Georgia’s winemaking tradition reaches back 8,000 vintages.
We’re talking about the country of Georgia, the former Soviet republic east of the Black Sea, not the state in the American South. The nation’s cosmopolitan capital, Tbilisi, is certainly known to ardent globetrotters. Less familiar are the country’s rugged wine regions, including Kakheti to the east; Kartli, surrounding Tbilisi; and the cooler, more humid Imereti to the west. Georgian winemakers, intent on reaching beyond Russia, their largest wine export market by volume, have found champions abroad, including Boston-area wine educators, sommeliers, wholesalers, and retailers.
Buoyed by the work of these wine professionals, as well as consumer interest in natural wine, selection has grown considerably. Indigenous grapes -- Georgia boasts more than 400 of them -- continue to be the industry’s focus. Bottles range from whites you can sip at cocktail hour, to deeply amber pours that sport nuttiness and texture associated with extended grape skin contact. Reds range from juicy and semisweet, to dry, chewy, and robust.
Wines crafted in qvevri (conical clay vessels integral to the country’s winemaking tradition since 6,000 BC) represent just a tiny percentage of overall production; but the ones made in this method offer intriguing, place-specific character. Until recently, it has been a challenge to locate distinctive, qvevri-influenced bottles retailing for $30 and under. Fortunately, that is changing, allowing consumers to try modestly priced examples before reaching for higher priced options.
You can experience Georgian wines at the second Ghvino Forum of America (tickets via Eventbrite) hosted by the trade organization America Georgia Business Council. Events include a tasting on Oct. 27 at Legal Sea Foods Park Square, and a symposium the following day at the Harvard Faculty Club. Afterward, tell friends and colleagues you have tasted Georgian wines for yourself.
Teleda Orgo “Dila-o” Rkatsiteli-Mtsvane 2018 Crafted from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes, this white is fresh and subtle. The juice spends just one month in contact with grape skins in qvevri. Scents of pear, apple compote, talc, and white flowers point to minerally, muted yellow fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Around $18. At Porter Square Wine & Spirits, Cambridge, 617-547-3110; Wine-Sense, Andover, 978-749-9464.
KTW “Velistsikhe Veranda” Rkatsiteli 2017 Made from Rkatsiteli, this amber pour spends a full six months in qvevri. Marzipan, honey, and roasted apple scents lead to a tart, mineral-forward palate, full of confident texture, roasted stone fruit, and a lingering nutty tang. 12 percent ABV. Around $20. At Burlington Wine & Spirits, Burlington, 781-272-3889; Winestone, Chestnut Hill, 617-264-0393.
Bruale Saperavi 2016 Saperavi is the grape in this inky, muscular red. The juice, which mingles with grape skins for two months in qvevri after fermentation, smells of dark fruit, anise, and tobacco leaf. Tart and full of texture, the wine offers a mouthful of black cherry, salt, and graphite -- definitely red meat’s best friend. 13 percent ABV. Around $30. At Berman’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515; The Cheese Shop of Salem, Salem, 978-498-4820.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org