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Georgian Wine on CNN

georgia_vidcap.jpgI love broadening my own wine horizons, and I'm always surprised at how narrowly most non-wine-focused media see the world of wine. So I was quite surprised to see a whole segment today on CNN all about Georgian wine. No not the Southern State. The country.

The country of Georgia hosts one of the oldest winemaking cultures in the world, and is regarded by some as the birthplace of winemaking. Georgian wine, of which I've had a scant couple of bottles in my life, comes in many varieties, but they are most famous for their tradition of long macerated wines fermented and stored in huge terra-cotta amphorae called kvevri that are buried in the ground up to their necks. These practices are currently being borrowed (honored?) by a small number of winemakers outside of Georgia, most notably Josko Gravner, whose orange wines are very dear to my heart.

In this nice little segment, reporter Ivan Watson visits a couple of wineries to taste wines out of the kvevri and it looks like a lot of fun. It's great to see CNN off the beaten travel path, and wonderful to see them highlighting a wine region so rich in tradition and history.

Unfortunately, CNN perhaps not being so wine savvy, hasn't done a great job of fact checking their sources, as the number of vinifera grape varieties (the primary source of most fine wine) in the world that is quoted in the story at 3000 is actually much closer to 10,000. While Georgia should be proud of their 500 (of which 38 are officially sanctioned for grape growing, according to Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine), they certainly don't represent one sixth of the known varieties on the planet.

No matter. Georgia is still cool, and so are their wines.

Check out the video.

Comments (8)

04.23.10 at 8:04 AM

I totally missed this so thank you Alder for posting it. There's a really old Hugh Johnson VHS(companion to Story of Wine I think) where he goes to Georgia and digs up and drinks from kvevri. Gotta' get to that country someday to see this and taste these wines.

Mike Petonic wrote:
04.23.10 at 4:58 PM

Indeed, we had the honor of meeting the owner and winemaker from Vinoterra at Biondivino in SF a couple of months ago. We were at Biondivino, coincidentally, to pick up a couple of bottles of Gravner (as most readers would know here, a semi-cultish "orange" Italian wine also aged in amphora). Apparently, Gravner learned from the Vinoterra folk about aging stuff in amphora, and minutes later, the Georgian folks from Vinoterra stopped by the store for a tasting that they were doing. Talk about serendipity.

Anyway, needless to say, we stocked up on their wines. My wife wanted to buy the whole case of one of the orange wines that they had, but the spirit of sharing made me ask that she refrain so others could get a chance to try them.

Since then, we've ordered several cases of the Vinoterra wines from Biondivino, both red wines and "orange" wines. It may not have all of the magic mojo of a fully bio-dynamic wine such as Gravner, but for $21 or so a bottle vs almost $100, it's a pretty good value.

NOTE: Even though I sound like I work for either Biondivino and/or Vinoterra, I don't! I'm not even in the food or wine biz, just a consumer.

Ceri Smith wrote:
04.26.10 at 3:00 PM

Thanks Mike I am happy you discovered them! Chris Terrell of Terrell Wines is the one who really drives the push and passion for Georgian wines - He is so passionate and knowledgeable on the subject he will love seeing Alders post and Video!

Note: Even though I sound like I work for Chris Terrell - I don't, I just sell his wines :) Salute ~ Ceri from biondivino

04.26.10 at 3:43 PM

How interesting! I'm a fan of all things Georgia so will look for their wines on my next trip to the bottle shop.

Umay Ceviker wrote:
04.27.10 at 2:18 AM

You can follow the latest wine scene in Georgia through the link(http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a20100318.html). The winery on the CNN video is Pheasant's Tears, owned by an American artist,Jonathan Wurdeman living in Sighnaghi,eastern Georgia. He has chosen to live in Georgia and quite enthusiastic about Georgian culture. The web site for his winery is (www.pheasantstears.com)

friejose wrote:
04.27.10 at 4:08 AM

Visited Kahketi, the main Georgian wine region in October 2007, and to say that they were not geared up for wine tourists is a deep understatement. Of course, that made the trip incredibly fun and memorable as I tasted from several kvevri in farmhouses way more decrepit than shown in the video in the region outside of Telavi. "Tasting" from the taped clay cups that we dipped in the kvevri was more like slugging back vodka, a habit picked up from the Russians no doubt. The wine was rustic and far from subtle, but there is a love of wine there and the terroir has a ton of potential. Can't wait to go back.

Nino wrote:
05.27.10 at 12:53 PM

Georgian brand of wine "Kindzmaraulis Marani" has been exclusively brought to the States of Washington and Oregon and will be distributed to California soon.

06.26.10 at 3:21 PM

The Pheasant's Tears, Teliani Valley and other leading Georgian brands are already available in Gretaer Washiongton, DC area wine stores and Whole Foods markets, as well as restaurants. Georgia with its 500 grapes and unique wine making tradition will become major wine tourism destination in next few years. And Saperavi has a potential to become the next Malbec of the world. There are too many unique elements related to wine in Georgia, and I am glad that CNN and wine blogers are paying more attantion to it.

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