If you’ve ever been to a supra (feast), you’ll know the respect with which Georgian wine is held by its people. Frequently referred to as the ‘cradle of wine’, Georgia is soaked in winemaking history, with various vinous artefacts such as pruning knives and stone presses from as far back as 8,000 years ago excavated by archaeologists. Legend even has it that soldiers would weave a piece of grapevine into their armour to protect their chests before heading into battle, so if they died, a vine would sprout from their hearts.
In the 20th century, Georgia was the powerhouse wine producer for much of the Soviet Union, but after gaining independence in the 1990s, the Soviet ‘wine factories’ are disappearing, replaced by smaller-scale producers intent on raising the quality bar.
Georgia is – perhaps unwittingly – at the cutting edge of winemaking, too. The penchant for fermenting wine in large clay amphorae (known as qvevri) is a technique now used by some of the world’s most influential producers, but they’ve been doing this in Georgia for centuries. Not only that, but while natural/orange wine may be the millennial’s drink of choice, they’ve been making the stuff in Georgia for millennia.
One such orange wine – Teliani Valley JSC Glekhuri Rkatsiteli Qvevri 2019 – scooped a Gold Medal in this year’s IWSC, scoring an impressive 96/100pts. Made from 100% Rkatsiteli, the judges hailed its intense aromas of Seville marmalade, gingerbread and ripe nectarines.
Georgia received four other IWSC Golds this year, awarded to a brace of reds from Tbilvino both made with the indigenous variety Saperavi. Its name simply means ‘colour’, and it delivers rich, full-bodied wines, with notes of liquorice, plums and spice, and is sometimes made in a semi-sweet style.
Each Georgian wine at the 2021 IWSC was arranged by colour and style before being tasted blind by an expert panel. Sarah Abbott MW was in charge of proceedings, joined by top sommeliers Igor Sotric and Isa Bal, along with Freddy Bulmer, a buyer at The Wine Society, and Master of Wine Simon Field.
You’d expect to find a few interesting bottles from a country that labels itself the ‘cradle of wine’, and this year’s IWSC tasting has uncovered plenty of them. Georgia has an enviable number of indigenous grape varieties, so if you’re fed up with the usual suspects, take a look at our recommendations and sample the top six Georgian wines to try.
The six best Georgian wines 2021
- Teliani Valley JSC, Glekhuri Rkatsiteli Qvevri 2019. Kakheti; 96/100
- JSC Telavi Wine Cellar, Satrapezo 10 Qvevri 2018. Kakheti; 96/100
- JSC Telavi Wine Cellar, Satrapezo Mtsvane 2018. Kakheti; 95/100
- Tbilvino, Napareuli 2016. Kakheti; 95/100
- Tbilvino, Special Reserve 2018. Kakheti; 95/100
- Kindzmarauli Marani, Kakhuri 2013. Kakheti; 91/100
HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE WINES?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
HOW DO WE SCORE THESE WINES?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
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Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.
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