£22, 13, Oddbins
Kakheti is widely acknowledged as one of the very best regions in Georgia, located at altitude on limestone soils. This qvevri-fermented and aged example of the contry's signature red is at the cleaner, less funky end of the natural wine spectrum (good news as far as I'm concerned) with smooth plum and blackberry fruit, savoury tannins and balancing acidity. The lightly earthy note from the qvevvi adds another dimension of complexity.
£9, 11.5%, Marks & Spencer
Fresh from a trip to Georgia, I recommended this wine on Saturday Kitchen as a way of pushing the vinous boundaries on daytime TV. I'm delighted that it was so well received. As orange wines go, this Rkaciteli from the country's best wine region, Kakheti, is not that extreme, as only part of the blend was fermented and aged in clay amphorae (qvevri). But it's still a very good example of the style: bone dry and slightly bitter (from the skins) with notes of orange rind and black tea and a lingering, dry finish.
£6.99, 12%, Marks & Spencer
Its' great to see a UK supermarket taking a punt on a Macedonian wine made from indigenous grapes (to be strictly accurate, Rkaciteli originated in Georgia, but Smederevka is a local staple). This is a white that has maintained acidity in warm conditions, a little like Assyrtiko in Greece, and it's deliciosuly crisp and refreshing, with notes of fennel, lemon peel and a bitter twist that's reminiscent of Italy.
POA, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene
This is the wine that first won me over to the charms of the qvevri – the most astoundingly complex nose of tea leaves, baked apples, jasmine, herbs and plum compote (and bear in mind my description does not remotely do it justice). Very much an amber/orange style, with chewy but perfectly ripe tannins – and yet the fruit shines through effortlessly. Outstanding.
N/A, 13%, Available from the winery
A fascinating example of what happens if you take an international variety (Cabernet Sauvignon in this case) and ferment/mature it in a qvevri – in this case the wine was also matured in oak. Cabernet's minty blackcurrant footprint is clearly present, together with herbaceous, spicy and balsamic hints. This is a big wine, with very ripe fruit, but super fresh and really rather elegant. Perhaps not entirely authentic, but original and stays true to the qvevri style. I drank this with Christmas roast goose and all the trimmings – a tough gig, but it held up.
€15.90, 13%, Geovino
Trademark Saperavi produced by Gogi Dakishvili at Schuchmann Wines – Saperavi is perhaps the most important indigenous red grape variety in Georgia today. Peppery, raspberry and prune fruit with an attractive balsamic note. Spicy, tannic but well balanced. Feels effortless.
POA, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene
Alaverdi's Kisi spends 6 months in the Qvevri, the skins and stalks lending it its deep amber colour, with fine-grained but persistent tannins. The aromas are intensely herbal, almost medicinal with hints of caramel and musk. Quite full bodied, with peachy, cooked stone fruit dominating the palate. Hugely complex, but needs food to show at its best.
€11.90, %, Available from the winery
Apart from being almost impossible to pronounce (seemingly half the letters are silent), Mtsvane has an entrancing soft, rounded texture, and in this example, an aroma of tea leaves and spiced plums. This is a great example of how these amber wines age effortlessly – and indeed are much better after a couple of extra years in bottle, when the tannins resulting from extended skin contact in the qvevri have integrated a bit.
N/A, 13.5%, Available from the winery
Apricot stone aroma, intense minerality and savoury fruit. You'd hardly know this qvevri-fermented wine had spent much time on the skins, as there's very little phenolic influence. Beautiful balance, bone dry and a terrific match with a traditional Georgian salad of aubergines and tomatoes.
€11.90, 12.5%, Geovino
A very accessible qvevri wine, with melon, honey and floral aromas giving way to spicy but restrained tannins and apricot kernel. A great introduction to Rkatsiteli and the qvevri style.