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August 21, 2019

An Amber Standout from Georgia

Mosmieri (Kakheti, Georgia) “Kakhuri” 2017 ($20, Corus Imports):  Georgian wines seem to be the rage these days, and there are plenty of possible reasons for that.  Consumers are intrigued that archeologists have figured out that wine has been made in that Caucasus-region country for 8,000 years, putting it among the oldest wine producing areas in the world.  The country’s relatively recent liberation from Soviet domination has resulted in a new-found focus on quality wine production, and its re-emergence is likewise a source of interest. 

Additionally, much of Georgian winemaking is closely aligned with the wine world’s current emphasis on minimal-intervention techniques, a point made persuasively by Christine Deussen (of Deussen Global Communications, which represents Georgian wines in the U.S.A.).  Few objects embody this emphasis as dramatically as Georgia’s widely used qvevri, large, egg-shaped earthenware pots sunk into the ground for the fermentation and storing of wine (a practice that has received placement on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists).  As Ms. Deussen also observes, the use of indigenous or autochthonous grapes rather than ubiquitous ones such as Chardonnay also makes Georgia’s white wines unique and fascinating.  (More on the reds in a future posting.)

Impediments to consumers' enjoyment of Georgian wines include lack of familiarity with Georgian names and geography.  Many potential customers, myself included, experience difficulty distinguishing the name of the grape from the name of the place, and then distinguishing between the name of the wine and the name of the producer.  However, though traditionally produced Georgian wines won’t be to everyone’s liking, dedicated wine lovers need to try them anyway because some--like the one profiled here--can be superb with food. 

Let’s start by trying to unravel the label.  Kakheti, a legally recognized and delimited area, is the major wine-producing region of Georgia, accounting for about 70 percent of the country’s vineyards.  Kakhuri, which means in the Kakhetian style and is the name of the wine, is confusing because other Georgian grapes use Kakhuri in their name--Kakhuri Mtsvani, for example, but usually called just Mtsvani.  (Mosmieri’s wine, however, is made entirely from Rkatsiteli, hence the potential for confusion.)  The label describes the wine as a “fine amber” wine.

The wine, though not made in a qvevri, is definitely a qvevri-style wine because the pressed grapes, skins and seeds are all fermented together for several months.  In typical white wine fermentation, the grapes are pressed, with the seeds and stems then being removed and discarded.  The juice undergoes fermentation for a week or two, not for months.  The grape, Rkatsiteli, indeed, should be less foreign to us than most Georgian grapes because Dr. Konstantin Frank makes a fabulous Rkatsiteli in upstate New York and labels it with the grape name.

True to its label, Mosmieri’s Kakhuri is amber colored and truly fine.  (Ms. Deussen says that many Georgians prefer “amber” as opposed to “orange” to describe the character of wine because of confusion with the fruit and the style of some orange wines.)  Mosmieri’s version is effectively a red wine masquerading as white because of the immediately apparent tannic impression on the palate.  Perfectly dry and clean, there’s not a hint of unpleasant oxidation despite the prolonged period of fermentation, which is what accounts for the subtle tannic feel and its amber color. 

Its lack of annoying oxidative character differentiates it from many orange wines.  If you’ve been turned off by the orange wine category, here’s a good place to start again.  A substantial wine, Mosmieri’s Kakhuri cries for food.  This is not an aperitif-type sipper for use before dinner.  Powerful because the prolonged fermentation pulls flavors--and tannins and color--from the skins and seeds, it still weighs in only at a stated 13 percent alcohol.  Its acidity and concentration make it a great choice for--believe it or not--a hearty spiced lamb dish.  You’ve heard of red wine with fish.  Here’s white wine…or rather amber wine…with lamb.

90 Points

Posted by Michael Apstein at 1:45 PM


August 4, 2019

Looking Up and Down for New Wine

One of the reasons that you’ve taken this moment to visit us here at Wine Review Online is no doubt to find something new -- it’s certainly one of the things that binds us together as wine lovers.

That said, it’s my pleasure to highly recommend a first release wine from Minus Tide, a brand-new player in California’s Mendocino County.  This 2017 Chardonnay, sourced from the Mendocino Ridge AVA’s Mariah Vineyard ($36), has been beautifully realized by three friends that met at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (one of California’s “other” wine schools) who are handling nearly every aspect of the winery, from winemaking to sales to label artwork, and they are off to the races with this gorgeously place-specific white wine. 

A little background on sourcing:  Mendocino Ridge is the rare AVA that is based on an elevation cut line, sitting above 1200 feet, and it’s the only non-contiguous AVA in the country to date.  Picture mountaintop vineyards dotting your view--basking in the sun above the fog that swaddles the landscape resting below 1200 feet--and you’ll get a sense of what the AVA is…unique to say the least. 

Now, look up to picture Dan Dooling’s Mariah Vineyard at 2600 feet -- more than double the AVA’s cut line elevation -- with a view of the Pacific, and you’ll get a fuller picture of how this wine comes together.

And come together it does, with elegant aromatics include pear, peach, apple, stony minerality and a dash of ocean spray.  These all translate in linear fashion on the palate, with a solid core of acidity driving the wine’s intensity and integration of flavors through a long finish.  Neutral oak adds a lovely textural component without interfering with the tension and purity of the fruit mix.  I could drink this all day long and never tire of it, and I’m excited to taste the rest of the lineup from this venture.  Look for more reviews soon.  94 Points

I love discovering something new in wine -- it’s like looking down and spotting a shell or a stone that you’ve never seen before while strolling the beach during a minus tide….
Posted by Rich Cook at 12:35 PM