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Green and Georgian Grape

Mtsvane is a Georgian wine grape, which is often blended with Rkatsiteli, the most famous grape from Georgia.  The name “Mtsvane” (or Mtsvani) means “green,” “young,” new” or “Green from Kakheti” in the Georgian language, named after the yellow-ish green coloring of its ripe berries.

Giant clay pots

The wines made with Mtsvane are often made with extended time sitting with the juice on the skin and even with grape seeds and the ripest stems.  This produces higher alcohol levels and a natural preservative so no need for additional preservatives.  The wines with Mtsvane are then typically made in the traditional Georgian style with the giant clay pots called “qvevri,” which range from 50 liters up to 3.5 tons.  Especially as it gets hot during the summer months in Kakheti and other eastern parts of Georgia (30+ degrees on average in July, the hottest month), the giant clay pots are kept in the ground where the wine can ferment in a cooler environment. 

Orange wine vs Amber wine

This production technique of extended contact between skin and juice makes what has become known as “orange wine,” which is basically making white wine in the same way that you make red wine (keeping contact with the grape skin and the juice after you crush the juice out of the grapes).  But “orange wine” as a term is not favored in Georgia.  Georgian winemakers prefer the term “amber wine.” In the fascinating Georgian language (which includes 3 different alphabets), the color “amber” translates to “qarva” (ქარვა). Peri – means color in Georgian so the amber-colored wines are called “Qarvisperi” (ქარვისფერი).

Georgian winemakers reportedly believe that “amber wine” is more true to the amber color of the wine itself (I tend to agree) and stays truer to the long and distinguished wine-making history of Georgia, which only recently came into the Anglo wine world’s consciousness, in significant part due to the interest and passion about “orange wine” in recent years. 

First coined in 2004 by UK importer David Harvey, the interest in Georgian and Italian white wines with color has now becoming relatively accessible, even appearing on many high-end restaurant menus and accessible in many wine shops globally. 


Smells like an orange wine with oxidized sense; tastes like a rusty acidic sauvignon blanc; longer finish with lots of green herbs playing together like in an aperol

Random Googles:

  • Mtsvane is considered to be one of the oldest wine varieties in the world, dating back 6,000 years
  • The Georgian language is not the only fascinating thing about Georgia.  In addition to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout the small country (it’s the size of the state of Florida in the US), UNESCO has recognized 4 cultural “elements” for inclusion
    • the Georgian language
    • the qvevri used in wine-making
    • a unique communal wrestling match set to music called Chidaoba that most men in Georgia practice, and
    • polyphonic signing (think Georgian choir chants which uses singing from your mouth and your throat at the same time).
  • Foods described as pairing well with Mtsvane by this wine enthusiast are apple sauce and potato pancake.  Haven’t tried but makes sense to me. 
  • Tsinandali Palace is an exceptional place to visit in Georgia, both to explore the beautiful grounds and to drink wine in the cellar

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Georgia has a solid claim to be the birthplace of wine, a birthright dating back at least 8,000 years. Chkhaveri is one of those Georgian grapes that is described as ancient and indigenous, among other quite positive descriptions. It also makes wine in the white, red and rose varieties, depending on the producer and the region.

Fragile yet worth it
The grape tends to fall flat when faced with fungal diseases and phylloxera so it was quite at risk until recent decades when it now appears to be making something of a comeback even if true Georgian wine converts still have a hard time finding it regularly in the Tbilisi supermarkets.

Watercolor wine in a style resminiscent of the Monet, Cezanne era. Hard to pin down exact color (is it light red, light orange, aperol?), hard to pin down the exact taste (is that light strawberry, rose on the lips, maybe a smell of a raspberry?) but the lightness and length of the wine shimmer on for a long time and the combination is lovely for a hot afternoon heading into evening.  Ripe for sunsets in hot climes.

Detail up!
Lukasi 2017 Rose 11% wine of the versatile Chkhaveri grape from the mountainous region of Adjara in the west of Georgia
Random Googles
* Chkhaveri is the English writing of the Georgian grape – ჩხავერი – which gives a sense of how different the languages and scripts are from each other.
* Georgian script (all 3 of them to be specific) is one of the three UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages. The other two are wine (from the clay amphora known as qvevri) and polyphonic Georgian singing. All 3 well deserved.
* Government of Georgia provides here a fascinating amount of detail on the origins of Chkhaveri, cultivation, history and future of the grape

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Madness in Pie Slices
Trivial Pursuit leads men mad. Sure, it’s easy enough to get the Orange “Sports” pie slice. Random history learned in the fourth grade can net you the yellow slice but you’re still four away from victory. Plus, unless lightning strikes and Teddy Roosevelt appears with big stick in hand, it’s impossible to answer the Pink slice – “Entertainment.” Really, it should be re-branded as “Slice of Un-American Entertainment” and denounced for the pinko card-carrying it is.

Blue Pie Peaches
Fortunately, there’s now one slice that you’ll be able to answer – Blue. Geography. Because this slice will inevitably lead to the question of which state is also a country. And you’ll know – because you drink wine and remember Ty Cobb as the “Georgia Peach” from your Orange pie slice glory days.

Georgia – a country
Enter the country of Georgia. Nestled against the soothing belly of Mother Bear Russia and topping Turkey, that land of many grape vines (3X as many as South Africa!) and notably few wines (sigh….), this is a country. Not a country of ______ or a country known for _______. Just a country – and that’s enough because it’s had a hard enough time attaining even that title.

Tis-so-a-cow, Rhee
On top of that, Georgia is a country that makes wine from its grapes, like Russia and unlike Turkey. You’ll be a better man than I (more likely to garner the Pink pie slice for sure), if you know this grape name. In fact, I’d buy you a pie if you can pronounce it. Tis-so-lih-cow-ri? Who knows? Who would confirm it?

Old, Old Wines
Georgians will confirm it and they’re out in the tweeter-verse. They’ll tell you Tsolikauri is one of the most planted grapes in the country in a country has grown wine for over 8,000 years (not a typo). They’ll tell you it’s one of the highest quality grapes the country offers out of the more than 400 grapes it grows. They just won’t tell you that it was one of Stalin’s favorites because then they’d have to explain that Stalin was born in Georgia and that gets awkward because you already have your yellow pie slice and you know he killed lots of people. Not over wine or anything but still. It’s awkward.

The taste of Tsolikauri is pretty much different and different in a really good way from other wines this wino has tried. We’re talking peach with a sweet smell (ok, kinda similar), medium body with medium sweetness (still kinda the same) but then there’s the difference. This Tsolikauri seems like it’d be high alcohol since it’s riding around your mouth in a go-kart made from white port and summer riesling. You’re thinking it’s going down in high-alcohol infused blue flame but no – this wine brakes and clock in at only 10.5% alcohol. Slow, long victory lap featuring more peach and cries of joy ensue from the audience ensue.

Detail Up!
Marani 2005 of the Tvishi controlled appellation made in Racha-Lechkhumi region in Georgia – for a 2005 white, this bottle (surprisingly) had plenty of life too.

Random Googles:
* One blog, righteously called Fringe Wine, describes Georgia as its “first real discovery” – a pretty solid compliment from someone called Fringe Wines
* Tsolikauri is one of the big grapes used in Georgia, along with Rkatsiteli, Tsitska, Mtsvane, Tetra, Krakhuna and others (sidebar – it’s great fun saying these aloud and loudly)
* Those cool looking jugs on the label you see above is a big part of Georgian wine culture (yup, it’s way older than expected) – they stick that jug in the ground to keep the wine cool while it ages… for years. Called a “Qvevri

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