Mtsvane (Ma-svah-nay) and Rkatsiteli (ra-ka-see-tell-ee) are both indigenous white grapes to the Republic of Georgia. Rkatsiteli is one of the oldest grape varieties in the world and the most widely grown wine grape in Georgia (Ukraine and Moldova also have significant plantings). Its stone fruit and floral notes are commonly blended with Mtsvane, which contributes citrus notes with bright acidity. Georgia and Armenia have debated which is the birthplace of wine. Armenia is home to the Areni Cave, which housed the oldest winery in the world, over 6000 years old. Georgia also has an extremely long winemaking history, with their oldest wine artifacts dating back over 8000 years, 3000 years before the advent of writing. Georgia is also known as the Cradle of Wine. The winemakers in this country still utilize the same winemaking methods used thousands of years ago including qveri. Qveri are handmade clay pots that are filled with grapes and buried underground, resulting in the original amber (orange) wines. They are buried partly as a rudimentary method of temperature control during fermentation but also to prevent breaking of the vessel as a result of pressure build up during the fermentation process. Qveri are made in a wide variety of sizes, which on average hold 100-4000 liters. Recently, the use of clay amphora in the fermentation and aging of wine has become widely used in winemaking around the world. Amphorae can be used throughout the winemaking process and are freestanding above ground, unlike qveri.
This week, I drank a 2021 Rkatsiteli-Mtsvane 50/50 blend under the Dilaᐧo label from Orgo Winery. The winery is located in the main winemaking region of Georgia, Kakheti. The grapes are fermented in qveri for one month, resulting in a moderate amber color. There was a slight haziness to the wine, consistent with the wine being unfiltered prior to bottling. Metallic aromas rose from the glass along with orange flavored chewable vitamins, orange blossom, quince paste, cantaloupe, and peaches. This dry, moderate alcohol light, bodied wine had a significant level of puckery acid. The palate consisted of a unique combination of orange juice, jasmine blooms, peach candies, ripe thimbleberries, and thimbleberry bramble that lingered long after the wine was gone. It was bright and fresh, but not a viable candidate for prolonged aging. This wine would be a great compliment to cuisines from the Caucasus region, as well as Turkish, Iranian and Lebanese dishes.