Sipping Saperavi

Anytime I’m in a specialty foods store I always check out the wine section to see if there’s anything new and interesting to try. I recently was at a Russian and Eastern European food store and came across wines from Georgia.

Georgia (not to be confused with the U.S. state), is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Europe. Its winemaking roots date back to between 7000 and 5000 BC. Today Georgia ranks 4th in grape production in the former Soviet Union behind Russia, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

Saperavi is the most important grape for Georgian red wines. It originated in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia and is now grown throughout the country. Its name means paint or dye, which refers to its dark red color. Outside of Georgia, Saperavi is now being grown in the Finger Lakes area of New York and in Australia.

The three main types of wine made from Saperavi are categorized by age. Mukuzani is aged three years or more and Kindzmarauli is aged two years. Wine aged one year is called Saperavi.

I picked up a bottle of 2005 Saperavi made by Georgian Royal Estates in Kakheti, Georgia for $12. The dry red wine has a deep cloudy purple color, closer to brown than red. It’s a mix of spice, wood and game on the nose and the palate.  Flavors of cedar, cinnamon, plum and mushroom mingle with big tannins. There is a little bit of that barnyard smell and taste which may turn off some wine drinkers. The alcohol is pronounced, more so than I would think for a wine with an alcohol content of 12 percent. The taste tapered off fairly quickly though the warmth from the alcohol lingered a little longer.

Saperavi has a robust taste that’s meant for pairing with traditional Georgian cuisine. Try it with hearty stews, grilled meats and game dishes. Saperavi wine comes dry, semi-sweet and sweet.