A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mtsvane Kakhuri - Kakheti, Georgia

Despite the fact that many of my first posts on this blog featured wines from the nation of Georgia, I haven't written a post featuring a Georgian grape in almost two years.  The reason is pretty simple: I really haven't been able to find many new wines made from interesting grapes in awhile.  I've had a few Georgian wines in my cellar for awhile now, but many of them were sweet red wines, which has never been my favorite thing, so I've put off opening them for quite some time.  I have recently gotten around to trying them, though, so posts on those wines will be coming up.  In the meantime, though, I also was able to find a bottle of wine made completely from the Mtsvane grape, which we've seen before, but never in a starring role.  It turns out that Mtsvane is more complicated than I had thought when I wrote about it before, so hopefully we get can to the bottom of it here today.

In my prior two posts featuring wines with a splash of Mtsvane, I was under the impression that there was a single Mtsvane grape and that the references to Mtsvane in each of the two wines were references to that grape.  It turns out that there are many grapes with the word Mtsvane in their names because in Georgian, Mtsvane just means "green."  Many grapes are called Mtsvane Something, and typically the Something part of the name has to do with where the grape is from (or thought to be from).  Mtsvane Goruli (or Goruli Mtsvane) means "green from Gori," which is a town in the Kartli region in the Caucasus mountains of south-central Georgia.  This is the grape that was used in the Bagrationi sparkling wine that I wrote about in 2011.  Today's grape is called Mtsvane Kakhuri, which means "green from Kakheti" since it is thought to be native to the Kakheti region of Georgia. This is the grape that was also in the Tsinandali wine I wrote about way back in 2010.  Confusingly, both grapes are generally known and generally labeled merely as Mtsvane so to figure out which one you're dealing with, you have to know where in Georgia your wine is from.

There are many other Mtsvane Something vines (the VIVC has around a dozen listed), but Goruli and Kakhuri are the most common.  Of those two, Kakhuri is more widely planted with nearly 600 acres devoted to it as of 2004.  Mtsvane Kakhuri is also grown to some extent in Armenia, Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine, but not really anywhere else.  Georgia's wine making history is thought to be older than any other country's, and many grapes currently grown there are said to have very ancient roots, but these claims are often difficult to back up.  Nearly all of the evidence for early wine making is archaeological and it gives little idea as to exactly what grapes may have been used for those ancient wines.  Further, as we've noted above, names like Mtsvane are very common and it is unclear which Mtsvane may be referenced when there are are textual sources available.  Finally, Georgia has had a complicated relationship with Russia throughout its history and was stuck behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th Century.  This relationship may have corrupted or destroyed some records as well.

The wine that I was able to try was the NV (though it was possibly from 2009, according to a comment below from the wine's importer) Telavi Wine Cellar "Marani" Mtsvane from the Kakheti region of Georgia.  This bottle set me back about $12.  In the glass the wine was a silvery lemon color.  The nose was somewhat reserved with aromas of apricot, pear, and green apple with a weird chemical or metallic kind of smell.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly low to low acidity. There were broad flavors of pear, golden apple, white peach and lemon peel/lemon water.  The flavors were pretty washed out and when you coupled that with the fairly low acidity, you end up with a wine that's not a whole lot of fun to drink.  While there are a lot of good wines coming out of Georgia, there's still also a lot of lackluster and sometimes straight up bad wines coming out as well and it's difficult to know what you're getting yourself into when you're trying something new.  This isn't a bad wine, but merely an average one that I have a hard time imagining a place for at my table or in my cellar.


Anonymous said...

This bottle is most likely 2009 vintage. Too old to make an objective judgement.

WineKnurd said...

Sounds like this is primarily a blending grape, do you know what it might add to the blend? From your notes maybe some aromatics but not much in the way of acidity (unless it helps to balance out some super-acidic grapes used in a blend).

Anonymous said...

very odd a tasting note for this very Mtsvane by Telavi Wine Cellar or Marani... I have tasted it many a times and it is just wonderful

Rob Tebeau said...

De gusitbus non est disputandum

Theo Jansen said...

Dear Rob,
The grape Mtsvane is according to my experience in showing this variety on tastings since 1995 both in the USA as in Europe a very promising variety and generally appreciated.
The Mtsvane from Marani obtained in Vancouver International Wine competition a score of 87points and was given the nomination: Best bargain Wines
In EU The 2010 vintage got from the IWSC silver, best in class ; from DecanterSilver and from the int.Wine Challenge bronze.
This indicates that you must have got a very odd bottle not representative for the wine and the producer. It is a pity that your opinion based on a bad bottle for whatever reasons makes the variety and the producer seem to be not good. At the contrary seen the above.
As promotor of Georgian wine and especially Mtsvane I would have hoped that you would have tried a second bottle before issuing your opinion. Theo Jansen, Honorary Citizen of Georgia

Rob Tebeau said...

Hi Theo:

I cannot speak for any wines other than those that are in my glass. How well this particular producer/grape fared with other publications or at any "wine competitions" is irrelevant to me when I am trying a wine in my home. I am especially wary of "wine competitions," since it seems that if you enter enough of them, you're bound to win a medal eventually.

I purchased a bottle of this wine in a local shop and what I have published is my honest opinion of that particular bottle and doesn't purport to be anything more than that. You point out that there have been some competitions where the judges disagreed with me. Unless this wine has won a medal at every single competition it has been entered in, I would wager that there are some judges out there who would not disagree with my assessment. You probably don't collect those press clippings, though.

I am an amateur critic, writer and researcher and nearly all of the wines that I review are wines that I purchased myself. I make no money from this website and a significant portion of my meager income goes to buying wines that I can write honestly about here. I do not always have the opportunity or the luxury of buying multiple bottles of something, and it irks me a bit when people tell me I should buy more bottles of something if I didn't like it the first time. If a bottle is obviously flawed, I do not write about it or I try to get a replacement bottle, but sometimes I just don't like a bottle and my review will reflect that. I did not see anything in this bottle that would indicate a flaw, so I wrote my honest opinion.

Two of the three negative comments on this post are from people who have some financial stake in Georgian wines or wines from this producer specifically. The first commenter did not disclose this until pressed on my Facebook page (he is the US importer for this wine). You are only obliquely referencing your financial connection to this particular bottle. The bottom line is that both of you are biased about this particular wine. I have no financial stake in this wine or this winery and so my review is unbiased. If you or anyone else feels that I was sold a bad bottle, send me a new one and I'll review it, but I see no reason to buy another bottle of a wine I didn't like the first time when I don't believe that the bottle was actually flawed.

I welcome the opinions of others on my blog, but I appreciate it when people are respectful of what is fact and what is opinion. If you have a problem with any facts that I've presented, please let me know. No "evidence" that you can give (in the form of critic scores, wine competition results or other reviewer's opinions) will change my opinion of this particular bottle, though, since what I've written is my honest expression of the experience that I had when trying this wine in my own home. If you really believe that this post is going to have serious negative financial repercussions for this particular grape, winery or Georgian wine in general, then I'm afraid you're both selling the average reader short and giving me far too much credit and influence.


Theo Jansen said...

Dear Rob. A final short reaction:
I do not question your taste,as it is as you do.
However the heading was that you were judging the grapevariety.
From your description you could only have tasted a too old badly stored wine. Your tasting experience is in my opinion not representative for the grapevariety nor for the producer.
That is why I reacted.
I invite the producer to send you another bottle.
Theo Jansen