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Tamada and Old Tbilisi—wines from Georgia

I suspect most readers won’t have ever tried a Georgian wine, but this is a country with an important historical tradition of wine growing. Archaeological evidence suggests that wine may have been part of the culture here as far back as 6000 BC, which is pretty much as old as wine growing gets. There are loads of really interesting grape varieties here, with some 500 currently being grown (although not all commercially); interestingly, 90% of the vines grown here are Georgian varieties, so it’s unlikely we’ll have to put up with Georgian Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Phew.

There are currently 125 000 hectares of vineyards in Georgia, which is more than South Africa (105 000). Until recently, though, the wines from them weren’t targeted at sophisticated export markets. But this is showing signs of changing. Since 1993, drinks giant Pernod Ricard have been collaborating with Georgian company GWS, and the result is the Tamada and Old Tbilisi wines – modern looking and export friendly. Head winemaker is Lado Uzunashvilli, a Georgian Australian. And the Lado has done well, fashioning a personality-filled set of wines that offer really good value for money.

In particular, I like the fact that these wines offer flavours that are a little bit different. The wines are more European in style than new world – perhaps more Italian than anything, although there’s a hint of northern Rhône in the reds, too. And they are made from local grape varieties. As yet they haven’t got terribly wide distribution, but if you can get hold of them, do give them a try.

Tamada Mukuzani 2001 Georgia
Made from the Saperavi grape, this is a lovely savoury high-acid red with delicious, minerally, gravelly black fruits. It’s a really well defined wine with some nice earthy tannins under the pure fruit. Savoury, quite peppery and delicious. Very good+ 89/100
(£7.99 Sainsbury Calais)

Tamada Mstvane 2004 Georgia
A white wine from Georgia’s Mstvane grape, showing soft, smooth herb-tinged fruit with a nice savoury tang. Good weight to this food friendly wine, which shows a minerally, citrussy edge. Clean and tasty with hints of nuttiness. Very good+ 85/100
(£5.99 Sainsbury Calais)

Tamada Saperavi 2002 Georgia
Saperavi is a remarkable Georgian variety that has red pulp as well as skins (known in France as a ‘Teinturier’, with other examples being Alicante Bouschet and Sousão). It has a lovely nose of bright dark cherry and plum fruit with a spicy, savoury twist. The palate is savoury and earthy with a really nice vivid cherry and plum character. There’s a nice earthy undercurrent to this well structured red wine, which with its slightly bitter finish needs food. Very good+ 88/100 (£5.99)

Old Tbilisi Rkatsiteli-Mstvane 2004 Kakheti, Georgia
Very fresh, full nose with a bright lemony edge and some savoury, minerally, nutty aromas. The palate is fresh, bright and minerally with nice fresh fruit and a spicy, tangy, stony character. Really nice white with some real character. Very good+ 87/100 
(£4.99 Ocado.com, Sainsbury’s Calais)

Old Tbilisi Saperavi-Dzelshavi 2003 Kakheti, Georgia
Deep coloured, this has a lovely nose of fresh bright blackberry and dark cherry fruit with a nice savoury, earthy edge. The palate shows pure, fresh fruit with an earthy edge and a bloody, almost meaty tang. Nicely structured, this is a good Rhône-like wine that represents brilliant value. Very good+ 88/100
(£4.99 Ocado.com, Sainsbury Calais)

Wines tasted December 2005
For more information, contact: byrony@provenpr.co.uk

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