For this week's wine, I decided to revisit the nation of Georgia, home of the Mukuzani wine that I enjoyed so much before. What I found when researching Mukuzani is that the overwhelming majority of wines being produced in Georgia were actually semi-sweet, rather than dry. Interestingly, there are more semi-sweet red/pink wines than white wines, as you can read on the Georgian Wine Wikipedia entry. Of the sixteen red/pink wines given descriptions on that page, only two reds are dry, while of the seventeen white wines, nine are dry.
I will confess that I'm not sure how authoritative the Wikipedia page is, but at the moment, it's really the only resource I have for Georgian wine. As far as I can tell, there only two books available that deal with Georgian wine. One is a book from the 1960's that is pretty clearly a Soviet propaganda book called The Wines and Cognacs of Georgia. While interesting in it's own way, it's not a very good source of information for the current state of the industry (the artwork is killer, though). The other book is called The Vine, Wine, and the Georgians, and it is not easy to obtain. My copy has not arrived yet, so in the meantime, Wikipedia is my source, though it appears to have the information entered by someone from the Department of Agriculture or at least by someone with a vested interest in the success of Georgian wines. It reads more like an advertisement than an encyclopedic reference, but what are you gonna do?
Kindzmarauli is a red wine, made from the Saperavi grape, that is vinified in a semi-sweet style. I am not clear on whether there is sugar added or whether the fermentation is stopped with some residual sugar (UPDATE: it seems that grapes are picked extraordinarily ripe and the fermentation is halted before all the sugar converts to alcohol. My best guess is that they drop the temperature to kill off the yeast in order to keep some of the sugar around but I'm not 100% sure). The vines are cultivated on the slopes of the Caucasus mountain range in the Kvareli region of Kakheti, Georgia, which is in the far eastern part of the country. Most of the wine I've been able to find from Georgia comes from Kakheti.
I will say right off the bat that, as a general rule, I'm not a fan of red wines with any sweetness except for ports or other red dessert wines like Brachetto d'Acqui. That said, I tried to table that particular prejudice and approach Kindzmarauli with an open mind.
The bottle that I had was from the same producer as the Mukuzani that I enjoyed, JSC Corporation (pictured at right). The vintage was 2007 and the price was $16. The wine had the same intense saturation of the Mukuzani, again from the intense pigmentation of the teinturier grape variety, Saperavi. It had an inky, dark black core with a bright purple rim to it. On the nose, the wine was a little grapey and instantly reminded me of grape juice. There were also blueberry and strawberry jam notes to it as well. The nose wasn't explosive, but it was persistent and pleasant.
On the palate, the wine had a full mouthfeel with medium acidity. There was a little tannic bite to it, but it was very faint. Grape juice, again, was the dominant impression here. There was also black cherry and blackcurrant jam tastes. All of the fruit flavors here were thick, ripe and jammy. The sweetness was definitely noticeable, but it wasn't cloying. This certainly isn't a dessert wine, though it does seem like it would be a natural fit with some milk chocolate. I tried the wine with a little bit of cheese, which was a very bad idea and I do not recommend that you do the same. I had the wine with a pan seared trout for dinner and while it wasn't a spectacular match, it was more than serviceable. It's one of the few wines I can think of that might be perfect with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
So did it convert me to the semi-sweet red wine world? Not exactly. I will not be looking for other Kinzmarauli bottlings from this producer or others, but I will probably check out other semi-sweet reds from Georgia and other regions (I currently have one waiting for me that is an Italian wine from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cesanese grapes). It seems to me that many of the Eastern European wines that I see in shops are semi-sweet, and I'd hate to write off a whole corner of the world without giving them a fair shot.