The UNWTO’s first Wine Tourism Conference & Georgia
After finishing up the bulk of research for a new Georgian wine book, from September 7-9th I attended the first annual Wine Tourism Conference, organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Georgia was chosen for the setting because as Secretary General, Taleb Rifai stated on the first evening, “Georgia is the birthplace of wine.”
There were 42 countries represented at the conference and despite being billed as fully taking place in Georgia’s main wine region, Kakheti, the conference ultimately took place there as well as in Kartli which is much closer to the capital, Tbilisi.
Starting with the opening remarks at the inaugural dinner, it quickly showed the unenviable difficultly Georgia faces in communicating its wines to the general public. While various speakers made repeated mention of the “8,000 vintages” of history that archaeological evidence has verified, at the table attendees were served mass-produced wines by a large “wine factory” that was founded during Soviet times and makes reliable, cost-conscious wines using what the Georgians call, “European technology”. Needless to say, these wines are not representative of Georgia’s millennia-old wine heritage with one even appearing to be a non-vintage red.
As large-scale production comprises approximately 98% of the total annual wine output of Georgian wine, it wasn’t surprising that what was served to guests followed a similar theme the other two days featuring wines from similar “wine factories”. At the traditional Alaverdi Monastery, people were allowed to taste an older vintage of one white wine made in the traditional kvevri method but it left attendees confused as some found it to be flawed.
Georgian wine authorities are currently having to promote these two vastly different styles of wine: one that is a remnant of the Soviet Era’s theme of massive production and the other, ancient method that runs completely contrary to large production. As seen, these traditional wines can be difficult to present to a large audience as many kvevri wineries lay claim to 0.5ha or less of vines and presenting to a group of attendees that numbered over 200 is all but impossible as they simply don’t have the production needed, yet. And while some of the “wine factories” have started to produce their own line of kvevri wines due to great international interest, their number of bottles is still nascent.
The Wine Tourism Conference for 2017 is scheduled to be held in Mendoza, Argentina and those in attendance stated they would be curious to see if some of these issues, including the very short speaking format for the sessions, will be improved upon.
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
Cave Abbé Rous - Cornet & Cie Blanc 2016 92
Peach, orange peel & blossom, honey, dried apricot, and a hint of green apple. Very nicely balance in the mouth, green apple notes more prevalent, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish. Fresh, lively, very pleasing wine to drink.
60% Grenache Gris 25% Grenache Blanc 5% Marsanne 5% Roussanne 5% Vermentino · 14.5%
Clos Henri - Petit Clos Pinot Noir 2016 92
Earthy, red cherries, young, crisp cranberry, light herbal notes, leafy, minor chalk. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity as well as length. Light sweetness on the palate but with a very pleasant, lingering structure and lightness to it.
100% Pinot Noir · 13.5% · 16.50EUR