The country of Georgia has the world’s oldest winemaking tradition, over 8,000 years, yet they’re new to many consumers. Georgian wines are increasingly appreciated by wine enthusiasts and the trade owing to their uniqueness and excellent quality to price ratios. Wines made using traditional qvevri (large, buried clay vessels) have attracted the most attention from connoisseurs and sommeliers, but Georgia’s indigenous grapes like Rkatsiteli and Saperavi also produce excellent quality wines using traditional winemaking techniques. As a result, Georgian wine exports to the US have averaged 30 percent growth over the past five years. In this article, we review the wines of Teliani Valley, one of Georgia’s most important, modern wineries and the first Georgian brand to establish itself in the US market where it offers an outstanding quality to price ratio.
Teliani is now one of Georgia’s largest wineries producing over a half million cases per year, most of which (70%) is exported, and it has one of the largest vineyard holdings in the country, about 250 hectares of vines. It uses modern as well as traditional techniques to make wines from Georgia’s indigenous grape varieties. It’s located on the site of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze’s 19th century winery where a French winemaker introduced modern winemaking. It was succeeded by a Soviet style winery focused on making large volumes of wine at low cost to be exported to Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Giorgi (Gogi) Dakishivili, one of Georgia’s best-known winemakers, played an important role in the transformation of Teliani Valley into a modern, quality-oriented producer. After studying enology at the Lomonosov Institute in Odessa, Gogi joined the winery in 1995, and in 1997 he and a group of investors began making wine using old Soviet equipment. In 2004, Teliani Valley received funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to build a new, state of the art winery. The winery was later sold to Georgian Capital, a Canadian based investment fund.
Teliani Valley wines are imported by Georgian House of Greater Washington. It is the premier US importer of Georgian wine and has as its mission to tell the untold story of Georgian wines to the US. Their web address is: www.georgianwinehouse.com
The International Wine Review has launched a major initiative to acquaint its readers with the wines of Georgia, as well as the country’s varied, rich cuisine. The pandemic has caused us to postpone travel to Georgia, but we are conducting regular tastings here in Washington DC in anticipation of preparing an in-depth report on Georgia in 2021. We recently wrote about the wide variety of Georgian wine in our first article here.
Wine Reviews and Ratings:
Teliani Valley 2019 Tsolikouri Lechkumi ($15) 90 This wine is made from the Tsolikouri grape variety in the Lechkhumi growing region (near Rachi). This wine is made using conventional techniques—fermented in stainless steel using inoculated yeast. The bouquet reveals clean orchard fruit mirrored on bright, crisp palate with citrus notes and bright acidity.
Teliani Valley 2019 Amber Blend ($17) 91 This wine is a blend of four native varieties: 40% Rkatsiteli, 10% Kisi, 10% Khoikhoi and 40% Mtsvanane. Medium dark gold in color, it is fermented in stainless steel with six months of skin contact. It displays herbal aromas from the Kisi grape, moderate acidity and complex flavors with hints of dried fruit and nuts. It’s a lively wine with firm but not aggressive tannins.
Teliani Valley 2019 Saperavi Kakheti ($14) 90 This Saperavi displays a medium ruby red color and red berry fruit with vibrant acidity. It is an easy drinking wine with a fresh clean character, straightforward but very attractive. Fermented in stainless steel.
Teliani Valley 2019 Saperavi Selection Kakheti ($22) 92 This is a vineyard selection which is bigger and more complex on the palate than the regular Saperavi. It is also chewier with dark plum and dark berry flavors. The tannins are fine and firm, and the finish is quite agreeable.
Teliani Valley 2018 Kindzmarauli Kakheti 91 The Kindzmarauli is a red, semi-sweet Saperavi-based wine which displays a dark ruby color with aromas and flavors of dark plum, sweet blackberry and pomegranate. It is soft on the palate with an off-dry attack and rich fruit, finishing with just a hint of sweetness. 35 g/L RS