Georgian Fortifieds

To record tasting notes and thoughts on fortified wines we might try which do not come from the demarcated region of the Douro Valley
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JacobH
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
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Georgian Fortifieds

Post by JacobH »

We went to Georgia on holiday this year. I’d highly recommend it. The food is absolutely excellent, from small places to expensive restaurants.

Georgia is one of a number of countries which has a legitimate claim to have invented wine. They have a very high number of indigenous grapes, most of which I did not recognise and which vary from region to region. There is a very large amount of small-scale wine making for personal consumption: wine drinking is really important to Georgian culture.

Interestingly, most decent-sized producers now make 3 main types of wine: semi-sweet table wines which are popular with the Russians (the main drinkers of Georgian wine); dry “international”-style wines; and wines aged in clay pots, usually called Queveri. These are sometimes called amber or, in more trendy places, orange wines. The Queveri wines are the most traditional and were, I think, the ones traditionally made for personal consumption. The technique is attractively simple: the Queveri is buried under the floor. After harvest, it is filled with pressed grapes and their skins. These are then stired daily for a few weeks until fermentation is complete. The Queveri is then left to mature for a few months, during which time the wine naturally falls clear. The wine is drawn off the top and bottled: the skins, pips and liquid in the bottom is then removed and distilled to make something like grappa called chacha (“ja-ja”), and the Queveri is cleaned for next year.

To my palate, the very best wines are the white amber ones: the extended maturation on the skin in the Queveri makes them go a beautiful dark colour like a 20-year-old tawny Port and they have both the freshness of being a white wine but also some body from the tannins from the skins. Acidity is generally quite modest but the tannins allow them to age very well.

Qutie a few places also seemed to be experimenting with fortified wines, too. There was a huge amount of experimentation. I tried some which were made with the spirit added to arrest the fermentation; others where the spirit was added to the wine. One place was making something out of grape must and spirits. Others were playing around with expensive rather than neutral spirits.

Near Telavi (which is the centre of the biggest wine region in the East), a company called Shumi produced something called Zigu. This was made from grapes from their “library” collection: a vineyard containing 425 different varieties. I’m not sure when they fortified it, but they used expensive chacha and then matured it in both barrels and rather nice clear bottles. I wasn’t massively keen on it: less would definitely have been more.

The best fortifieds were simpler. The one I enjoyed the most was from Rostomaant Marani in Telavi. This was made using his normal red wine blend. I think fermentation was arrested with some mild chacha. It was then aged for quite some time. As with many of the better Georgian fortifieds, it reminded me of a red Maury or a Banyuls: full bodied: decently tannic; good acidity balancing the sweetness; and with a rustic directness that comes from non-Portuguese blends.

Unfortunately, beyond the Zigu, very few of these wines are easy to get in the UK. But if you ever have the chance to visit and try these intriguing wines do so: I don’t think you’ll regret it.
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DRT
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Re: Georgian Fortifieds

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That is a very interesting post, Jacob.

During my career as a civil servant in the 1990's I was involved in a consultancy project to help with the re-establishment of a land register in Georgia to allow citizens to reclaim land and property that had been seized by the Soviet Union. We hosted a delegation from the newly re-established land register in Tbilisi for a week in Edinburgh to show them the technology and methods being used in the Scottish land register. It was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on.

When we hosted our delegation they were very much recovering from a period of real political unrest, violence and instability and there was absolutely no way we would have been able to make a reciprocal visit. It is really good to read an account like yours from a recent tourist visit to the country and I am glad to hear that they have found peace.

I don't recall any discussion about fortified wines, but I do remember that the delegation of ten visitors managed to drink several gallons of Chateauneuf du Pape during their week with us.

Clearly, such extravagant wine drinking would never be permitted in today's UK Civil Service :roll: :CC0033: :CC0033: :CC0033:
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
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nac
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Re: Georgian Fortifieds

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DRT wrote: 17:58 Fri 29 Jul 2022 That is a very interesting post, Jacob.

During my career as a civil servant in the 1990's I was involved in a consultancy project to help with the re-establishment of a land register in Georgia to allow citizens to reclaim land and property that had been seized by the Soviet Union. We hosted a delegation from the newly re-established land register in Tbilisi for a week in Edinburgh to show them the technology and methods being used in the Scottish land register. It was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on.

When we hosted our delegation they were very much recovering from a period of real political unrest, violence and instability and there was absolutely no way we would have been able to make a reciprocal visit. It is really good to read an account like yours from a recent tourist visit to the country and I am glad to hear that they have found peace.

I don't recall any discussion about fortified wines, but I do remember that the delegation of ten visitors managed to drink several gallons of Chateauneuf du Pape during their week with us.

Clearly, such extravagant wine drinking would never be permitted in today's UK Civil Service :roll: :CC0033: :CC0033: :CC0033:
I assume this visit wasn’t sufficiently important to make use of the Lancaster House cellar?
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JacobH
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Re: Georgian Fortifieds

Post by JacobH »

DRT wrote: 17:58 Fri 29 Jul 2022 That is a very interesting post, Jacob.

During my career as a civil servant in the 1990's I was involved in a consultancy project to help with the re-establishment of a land register in Georgia to allow citizens to reclaim land and property that had been seized by the Soviet Union. We hosted a delegation from the newly re-established land register in Tbilisi for a week in Edinburgh to show them the technology and methods being used in the Scottish land register. It was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on.

When we hosted our delegation they were very much recovering from a period of real political unrest, violence and instability and there was absolutely no way we would have been able to make a reciprocal visit. It is really good to read an account like yours from a recent tourist visit to the country and I am glad to hear that they have found peace.

I don't recall any discussion about fortified wines, but I do remember that the delegation of ten visitors managed to drink several gallons of Chateauneuf du Pape during their week with us.

Clearly, such extravagant wine drinking would never be permitted in today's UK Civil Service :roll: :CC0033: :CC0033: :CC0033:
That’s so interesting to read! The amount of wine they drank does not surprise me: one “tasting” we went to involved being offered 1 litre of wine each + some chacha... 88)

I would highly recommend a holiday in Georgia. We wemt for two weeks and visited quite a few places but a nice short trip would be Tbilisi + Telavi (which is the capital of the main wine region) or fly to Kutaisi which is the historic second city for a long weekend. It is difficult to impress just how fantastic the food is: I think it is up there with the Lebanon as one of the best places I’ve eaten in the world.

It’s quite difficult to get a good sense of a country from a short-ish holiday. I think they have some real challenges. There are two Russian-backed breakaway regions which occupy quite a lot of the land. They also are in real need of significant infrastructure investment. For example, it is only about 230 miles from Batumi on the Black Sea (which is the 2nd biggest city) to Tbilisi but it takes about 6 hours to drive because they don’t have a modern high-capacity, high-speed motorway. There is a rail network but it is similarly quite slow.

I think there has always been a tension in their politics between pro-Russian and pro-European factions, although I think the Ukranian war might have reduced the former’s influence: the Batumi regional government had literally attached an EU flag to every other lamp post! There are also lots of Russians living in the country, although a few we spoke to had fled from Putin so I suppose many of them might be pro-European. Will be interesting to see what happens. I am crossing my fingers that it is for the good.
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