When you hear the name Georgia what comes to mind, is it songs like “Georgia on my Mind” the Ray Charles Classic and the State anthem of Georgia in the U.S.of A. or is it an obscure country in Europe that used to be part of The Russian Empire? Interestingly the latter is considered by many experts in the wine industry to be the birthplace of the wine industry of today and without their skill at turning the humble grape into wine, we may not be enjoying the wonderful beverages that are made around the world today. It is certainly one of the oldest wine regions in the world with wine first being made some 8,000 years ago when it was discovered that wild grape juice that was buried in a shallow pit through the winter months had turned into an alcoholic drink when the weather warmed up. Armed with this knowledge the Georgians developed a clay vessel known as a Kvevri which was buried ready for serving at ground temperature and when filled with the fermented juice of the harvest was topped with a wooden lid and then covered with earth. Some of these vessels may remain entombed for up to 50 years and due to its diverse and unique microclimate there are about 500 grape varieties in modern Georgia and even today modern wineries still ferment the grape juice in clay Kvevri’s in the sheds in the cement floors. Cement has been used in the wine industry for years for fermenting wines I remember when I started in the industry I went to the Kaiser Stuhl winery in The Barossa Valley and they had a cement tank that held red wine that contained a million litres, this is where the juice was covered with the skins of the grapes to get the colour before transferring to barrels for fermentation.
When the Russians occupied Georgia in the 1920s the winemakers were made to produce wines that the Russian people enjoyed and many styles were changed, however with the beak up of the Russian Federation in the early 1990s and getting their independence Georgia has returned to its historic roots.
In the television programme I was watching the other night they showed a market in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and they were selling their homemade wines in plastic soft drink bottles which reminded me of an occasion some years ago when we called in for lunch with our brother in law Louis. Louis was an Italian who bought wine from a friend who made wines from grapes grown in The Swan Valley near Perth and it was in 1.5 litre plastic Coke bottles, I suggested that I had some Penfolds in the car and that I would put a bottle on the table when the wine was served the wine in the plastic bottle was well and truly oxidised but Louis who had developed a taste for this wine preferred it to the Penfolds!
If you are looking for a wine to start a conversation at your next gathering of friends look no further than a range made for Kylie Minogue which is truly international and packaged in very striking bottles. In the range is an Italian Prosecco Rose, a Rose Vin de France, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot from the Pays d’Doc region of France and an organic Brut reserve Cava from Spain, if you are interested have a look in Dan Murphy’s and First Choice Liquor for the Rose Vin de France but I am sure the rest will arrive very soon, I am surprised there isn’t a Champagne in the range given how bubbly the girl is but I’m sure this could also appear one day.
Kylie joins a long list of celebrities who have taken to promoting their names on the label of a bottle of wine. Golfing greats Greg Norman, Ernie Els, David Frost, Retief Goosen, Jack Nicklaus, the late Arnold Palmer and not to be left out from the ladies Christie Kerr all have their names on wine bottles.
Santana partnered with G.H. Mumm to create a sparkling wine titled Santana DVX, Sam Neill produces his own Pinot Noir in New Zealand, whilst Graham Norton creates an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc also from New Zealand.
The most successful celebrity wine comes from Francis Ford Coppola whose wines can be found in nearly every liquor outlet in America and other famous or infamous names include Gerard Depardieu who reportedly drinks a bottle of vodka daily, Dan Ackroyd, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Sting and racing identity Marco Andretti.
Looking for something different this weekend to Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz then look for a Grenache. Until the 1990’s Grenache was a mainstay in the production of fortified wines but the great red shortage in 1990 made winemakers look to Grenache and what a find it turned out to be. No variety in Australia has ascended to an exalted mantle as this variety and this is down to the quality of the fruit, much of it old, bush-vine material and widely grown especially in McLaren Vale South Australia. Grenache even has its own ‘International Grenache day’ which is the 3rd Friday in September, look out for d’Arenberg ‘The Custodian’ Richard Hamilton ‘Burtons Vineyard’ and the uniquely bottled ‘Little Giant’. If you are partial to a good Chardonnay then give the Houghton Margaret River Chardonnay a go. Liquorland is selling it at $13 every day down from $18 and it is worth every cent. Cheers.