Georgian Traditionalist

Today’s Story: Shalauri Cellars

Shalauri Cellars is a relatively new Georgian producer whose first vintage came in 2013 with releases of Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi. Shalauri’s goal is to create artisanal wines by utilizing the traditional approach of fermentation and aging in Qvevri. For those not familiar with the Qvevri Method (I was not when I purchased this bottle), it is an 8,000 year-old process of winemaking wherein a massive clay jar (Qvevri) is buried underground to provide a naturally cool and even environment for fermentation and aging. Further, the Qvevri being surrounded by earth helps reinforce the jar which may otherwise break under pressure of the wine. One additional important note about Shalauri is that they are one of few wineries of their small scale bottle aging wine before releasing it commercially.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Mtsvane

100% Mtsvane; 13.5% ABV

When I asked for a bottle of wine that would be new to me, the owner of a local wine store steered me toward this Mtsvane. The wine is fermented and aged using the Qvevri Method, which I mentioned above, while seeing extended skin contact of six months. Further, the winemaker tries to interfere with the process as little as possible. I’ve had a few white wines from around the world that pick up tannin and body from prolonged skin contact, but this is my first from Georgia.

In appearance the wine is amber orange with deep yellow variation near the edges of the glass. This is also incredibly transparent, almost acting as a magnifying glass. The nose is somewhat muted, though is dominated by aromas of tangerine, orange zest, honey, marmalade, and hazelnut. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of charred pineapple, crisp red apple, white peppery spice, slight lemon citrus, caramel, and almond. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins (thanks to the prolonged skin contact), and a long chewy finish.

Price: $28. I’ve had less expensive wines that achieve the “unusual” effect of tannin in a white wine, but this is very well done and is a cool experience from a country you might not know produces wine. Pair this with mature cow cheese, chicken, or pork. I drank this with a roasted apple cider pork loin.