Say “wine,” many people think France and that’s understandable—France has been the sort of disputed king of wine since, oh, the Roman era when the area in what is now Burgundy paid their taxes to Rome in white wine. But it’s not the birthplace of wine. Or at least not where the oldest recorded evidence of winemaking has been found. That would crown would go to two countries in the Caucuses: Georgia and Armenia.
The Georgian Qvevri way of making wine goes back to the 2nd or 3rd millennium BCE, long before Rome was even an Etruscan village and Burgundy was, well, just another spot of land in what would eventually become the Duchy of Burgundy in the Frankish Kingdom. Other discoveries suggest that wine has been made in Georgia going back to the 6th millennium BCE, when Europe was, well, less civilized than the Caucuses.
The Armenians are no slouches either. In a recently discovered cave, one holding the oldest leather shoe ever discovered anywhere on the planet also completes a picture of Armenian winemaking going back 6,100 years, to the first known winery on Earth. So your choice: 8 thousand years of known winemaking, but with spotty history versus 61 hundred years of a more complete picture, including the world’s first winery.
Having recently traveled to both countries, I’ll feature wines from both counties as they are being made today in some upcoming posts. Including some made in the ancient Georgian Qvevris, like the one sampled below, here in Brooklyn.
Good Example of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Quite pale Goldenrod—long, firm legs. Citrusy on the nose with a touch of pith, and breadfruit—attractive and it rises from the glass. A zippy attack, with a full, mouth playing mid palate. Salivary glands tighten, them moves int a long, mellow tropical fruit (breadfruit) finish: 4 of 5🍷#WhiteWine #Marlborough #SauvingnonBlanc #newzealand 🇳🇿
An uncommon Rosé from Vinho Verde, and a good one. Pale rose hip with clean meniscus, a dash of bubbles, a few quick falling legs and some sheeting. Raspberry w/a bit of wildflower on the edges. It has an acidic attack; the medium body’s what remains a bit react midpalate when a rich rip berries kick in—like strawberry preserves balanced by the acidity and lighter body it last quite a long time, finish w/a hint of watermelon the the the very end. 3.5 of 5 🍷#Rosé #VinhoVerde #Portugal 🇵🇹
Pale parchment, a few legs—mostly sheeting—and no petulance. The nose shows stones and a hint of petrol—no fruit to speak of. Earthy with firm acidity in the attack, but no real fruit comes through even mid-palate. Moderately long finish with an odd tail—a redux of petrol. Overall a rather peculiar example of #VinohVerde 2 of 5 🍷 #whitewine #portugal 🇵🇹
This low rating is likely owing to being 11 years old (at time of tasting), and far past its prime, and possibly corked. That said, it’s deep violet with a touch of brick on the meniscus, a few, slow, long legs after the creamy, purple head recedes. Viscous.
A very good Sauvignon Blanc with a Chardonnay complex. Show off as goldenrod to sunset yellows, with a few long, slow legs. Fairly viscous for
A wine for the more adventurous: it’s all about the clay and earth from the Qvevri it was raised in. A Qvevri is an ancient, traditional winemaking system, ancient as in dating back to the 2nd or 3rd millennium BCE. A Qvevri itself is a large, amphora-like clay vessel that is buried in the ground, frequently the cellar floors of the maker. After the must is sluiced into them, they are capped with ceramic tops and the wild yeast from the area are allowed to work their magic. Once done, the wine is scooped up and bottled. The lees are then removed and can be used as fertilizer.
The above bottle was purchased at the winery, so it could be different from the export versions.
Clear amber to dusk-orange (which is typical for the Gurjaani region says the winemaker) Slender legs, with distinct earthy notes and hints of dried apricots. It has a reserved attack, but it grows into an earthy, medium body wine, with a touch of bitterness (pleasant) and fine tannins late. Absolutely dry: 3 of 5 🍷 (This is the 2018 bottling.) #whitewine #Rkatsiteli #Georgia🇬🇪
Fresh is the keyword for this Sauvignon Blanc. Very pale parchment—nearly clear—medium viscosity, several evenly spaced, slow falling legs. Citrus on the nose with a touch of candied peel. Zippy attack! Hints of grapefruit plus decided pith Citrusy—grapefruit—acidic, long, drying finish.Medium-full body. 3.5 of 5 🍷#whitewine #sauvignonblanc #CentralCoast 🇺🇸
Garnet, leaning toward the lighter side, many fat legs around the glass, clears meniscus, moderately viscous. No a forthcoming nose—you can pick up some earthy, roast red meat, some plump fruits linger in the background. Has a mild attack, which opens up into acids, tannins, some red cherry (brambly fruit—zippy mid-palate, with lots of fine tannins move into the moderately long finish. Some notes of some roast or char late, sour cherries notes. Grows on me: 3.5 of 5 🍷.#Pintonoir #redwine #california 🇺🇸
A different sort of Pinot Blanc that’s not for everyone. Pale parchment with a clear meniscus and a few slow legs late—mostly sheeting. Fresh nose, with litchi fruit and a custardy finish: round and appealing. Zippy attack—some vague fruit notes mid-palate when it coats the mouth, some burnt sugar w/tropical fruit lingering into the long, very dry finish. Clings to the mouth and ends up
An earthy wine not everyone will like: Light goldenrod, sheets in the glass, fairly viscous, Mineral nose with
Better than expected Pay D’Oc Pinot Noir: Lighter plumb with a touch of browning on the meniscus—a few long, branching legs, and somewhat viscous. Slightly hot nose, with a bit of forest floor w/brambly berries. A hint of barnyard. It has an acidic attack that opens up into earthy notes and dark berry fruit, moving into fine tannins and an umami yum, lasting into the long, saliva extracting finish. Medium body. As much as it has going on, it feels a tad thin—more interesting when thought about than sipped: 3 of 5 🍷 #redwine #pinotnoir #paydoc🇫🇷
The initial impressions of sweetness giveaway to a well-balanced wine that grows on you. Medium garnet w/clear meniscus, many long, think legs, somewhat viscous. Plum and dark fruit nose with earthy spice and hints of mincemeat. Medium body with a light attack, underpinned w/firm acidity and over top is a sweet-tart like
Clean, sweet-tart style white. Very pale parchment, with lots of long slow legs. Fairly viscous. Nutmeg on the nose, with the merest hint of petrol and earth (see nutmeg). Bright attack—then full on impressions of sweetness, and saliva squirting acidity going into a long finish—fruit is citrus hard candy with full-on tartness: 3.5 of 5🍷#whitewine #riesling #mosel🇩🇪
Amour Fou Vin de Pays d’Oc Pinot Noir 2017
A fair, medium-bodied Pinot Noir from Pays d’Oc. Medium-clear Bing Cherry color, with many, slow long legs, and fairly viscous, speaking to the 13% ABV. Has a dark berry scent that rises from the glass. A touch hot, with hints of warm spice late. A mild attack, with medium-body, which still coats the mouth—firm acids—fine tannins, but a bit of bitterness punches through the light fruitiness, giving it an austere finish—long, but wanting food for balance: 2.5 of 5🍷#RedWine #pinotnoir #PaysdOc 🇫🇷
A lean but still appealing white. Shows of as pale parchment with golden highlights, a few legs with moderate viscosity in the glass. The scent has vanilla custard with a touch of slate. Medium bodied wine with a lean attack. Firm acidity under a creamy mid-palate. Some of the custardy notes linger into the fair finish, which ends on a dry note: 3.5 of 5 🍷#whiteWine #RíasBaixas #Albariño 🇪🇸
A pleasing white without being special. Shows off as a very pale wheat color, nearly clear, with many long legs around the glass. Moderate viscosity. The nose is clean, with light fruitiness with a touch of earthy spice at the edges. Lean at the start, but it turns lush and coats the mouth midway through the moderately long finish. Medium body, with honey-apple notes and solid acidity: 3 of 5 🍷🇺🇸#WhiteWine #PinotGris #RogueValley