A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Wines for a Jack$on (Under $20) – Teliani Valley, Tsinandali 2012, Georgia

Tsinandali, a blend of indigenous white Georgian varieties.

Tsinandali, a blend of indigenous white Georgian varieties.

Grapes grow just about everywhere on this planet where they’re given a chance.  In places like eastern Europe, vines have been grown and cultivated for thousands of years, and historians agree for the most part that the grapevine as we know it originated in this part of the world – near the Caucusus Mountains in present day Georgia.  This rugged mountain range affects a large part of the terrain, providing drastic highs and lows throughout the valley floors and giving grapevines the perfect “struggle” to provide high quality fruit.

The Teliani Valley Winery is currently one of the top producers of quality Georgian wine.  Established in 1997 on the site of a 19th century winery in Teliani village, its first vintage was released in 2000.  In May 2004, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development became the company’s strategic financial partner, allowing the winery to make substantial improvements.  These included completing a new production facility (commissioned in 2005), increasing quality by combining modern technologies with local traditions, improving management and marketing, and unbridled enthusiasm.

Tsinandali is a blend of two indigenous white grape varieties, Rkatsiteli (80%) and Mtsvane (20%).  There is no oak on the wine, but it has a round and plump mouthfeel.  The dominant fruit flavor is ripe green apples and bartlett pears and there is a noticeable bitter finish.  Subtle saline notes mark the medium to long finish, and a bitter lemon peel flavor creeps up on the back palate.  Due to it’s mineral-driven flavor, it’s easy to characterize this wine as an “Old-World” style – a style that represents a penchant for less fruit and more earth.  Wines from Georgie are few and far between, but this one is a great stepping stone into one of the world’s lesser-known countries, but undoubtedly one of the most significant.

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