Today we delve in to a handful of wines from Georgia — the country, not the state — mostly comprising indigenous grape varieties you’ve never heard of. Two of the wines in the mix are amber wines, which is essentially the O.G. version of modern orange wine — made with white wine grapes, aged on the skins the way red wine is made. Georgian amber wine tastes quite a bit different than a more modern orange wine, in large part due to the way it is aged in qvevri (large earthenware urns), without wood, so try to come with an open mind.
2020 Chona’s Marani – An amber wine, made from 50% mtsvane and 50% rkatsiteli. Some oxidation gives this a sherry-like feel, nutty and spicy, with notes of well-spiced fruitcake dominating. Sugared almonds mix with notes of bright lemon candies and applesauce, before a rush of fino sherry elements bring a sharp, oxidized character into focus. None of that would be unusual save for the wild and herbal finish, which offers a rather green and salty, almost olive-like quality. If nothing else, it’s probably unlike anything else you’ve had before. B / $32
2019 Vazisubani Estate 3 Qvevri – An amber blend of rkatsiteli, mtsvane, and kisi, aged in three qvevri. The toughest wine of the bunch. A sweet-and-sour nose showcases jasmine and golden raisins, but the palate is heavy with notes of oxidized wine and watery honey, fading into a heavily floral and almost mustard-adjacent note as it develops in the glass. While there’s some amount of promise up top, the wine becomes increasingly thin and sour on the finish, its charms fading with each sip. Drink this one very cold for maximum impact. C / $22
2022 Vazisubani Saperavi – 100% saperavi aged in qvevri, this unoaked red wine is straightforward and a little blunt, a fairly thin table wine with a simple cherry-meets-strawberry core, backed up by notes of graphite, turned earth, and walnut shells. Green and a touch unripe on the finish, it isn’t unlikable but it feels underdeveloped and distinctly lacking something in the way of gravitas. B- / $15