Pheasants's Tears and Amber Wine

Niko Pirosman - "A Large Wine Jug In The Forest"
Oil on canvas.
Georgia & Qvevri... 

Georgia has a claim on the worlds oldest winemaking techniques and history, dating back over 8000 years. They maintain the production of dozens of unique, indigenous grape varietals, most often blended, and made by a very traditional method called qvevri. Wine appears to hold a major role in Georgian culture. Qvevri Is the specific process of macerating, fermenting, and storing wine in giant clay vessels, buried in the earth, and lined with beeswax. See the above painting, center object. As I describe below, this ancient winemaking technique has a profound effect on the end result. There is a plethora of info on the subject available online, starting with Wiki - Georgian Wine.


The wines...
I'll keep this simple; they all have one extremely distinctive quality in common; the nose is ancient, musky and purely secondary toned, opposing the palate, which is bright and popping with fresh fruit. The disconnect seems almost unreasonable, completely unlike any other kind of wine. This is qvervi at work. Two white blends and two red varietals, from Pheasant's Tears:


The Kisi...
The colour is head-turning, intense amber, like a rye. The aroma is that of cognac diluted with sweet muscat wine; sweet, warm, and complex; honey, tangerine, peach, almond, marzipan, musky wood, cognac. By normal wine standards its awful, but accepting its uniqueness allows a different appreciation. In the mouth fresh, zippy, acid surprises the mouth (to say the least). Notes of fresh apricot, yellow pear, and cinnamon sticks. The back end is tannic, an unexpected dryness pulls at the cheeks with distinct grip. Its all very odd...


It really isn't white wine, and cant be treated as such. Have it once and remember it forever, for these amber wines are up there with the most unique and different wines in the world, and the Kisi is amongst the most powerful renditions. Beware not to over chill, as it quickly seems bitter.

The Iveriuli Qveris...
On the same note, slightly tamed, and a price point down.
Pale scotch in colour, the nose is sweetly fortified with rich secondaries. The taste turns a different direction with crisp fruits and lively spices. It offers much of the same experience as the Kisi, in lesser proportions with more fruit and drinkability. Notes of peach, golden apple, nutmeg, nuts, cider, cedar.


The Tavkveri...
This lives for high drama. The colour is almost black. The nose is reminiscent of tawny port with warm honey, fresh cedar bark and brandied cherries. The palate opens with cutting acid, sour black cherries and rhubarb pie. Mid-light body. Its left, then right, up and around.



The Saperavi...
This varietal is recognized as one of the best and most important in the Georgian arsenal of red grapes. Capable of high extraction and long aging. This bottle shows more harmony between the nose and palate compared to the Tavkveri, as well as a more full body. More berry fruits to accompany the brandied aroma.


Sound good? Maybe not? These wines aren't for the unadventurous. There are few situations where they substitute a regular wine, but they absolutely have a place. All oddities aside, once your head is in it, these wines can be really enjoyable. Hosting a few people? Crack one of these after dinner and let the convocation roar. For fun, serve in snifter glasses.
Available at WineInk on 17th amongst other speciality wine shops in Calgary.
Kisi $27.25                  Iveriuli Qveris $14.95
Tavkveri $27.25           Sakeravo $26.95

December 2012