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Mtsvane Kakhuri - Kakheti, Georgia

by Rob Tebeau
Despite the fact that many of my first posts on this blog featured wines from the nation of Georgia, I haven't written a post featuring a Georgian grape in almost two years.  The reason is pretty simple: I really haven't been able to find many new wines made from interesting grapes in awhile.  I've had a few Georgian wines in my cellar for awhile now, but many of them were sweet red wines, which has never been my favorite thing, so I've put off opening them for quite some time.  I have recently gotten around to trying them, though, so posts on those wines will be coming up.  In the meantime, though, I also was able to find a bottle of wine made completely from the Mtsvane grape, which we've seen before, but never in a starring role.  It turns out that Mtsvane is more complicated than I had thought when I wrote about it before, so hopefully we get can to the bottom of it here today.
In my prior two posts featuring wines with a splash of Mtsvane, I was under the impression that there was a single Mtsvane grape and that the references to Mtsvane in each of the two wines were references to that grape.  It turns out that there are many grapes with the word Mtsvane in their names because in Georgian, Mtsvane just means "green."  Many grapes are called Mtsvane Something, and typically the Something part of the name has to do with where the grape is from (or thought to be from).  Mtsvane Goruli (or Goruli Mtsvane) means "green from Gori," which is a town in the Kartli region in the Caucasus mountains of south-central Georgia.  This is the grape that was used in the Bagrationi sparkling wine that I wrote about in 2011.  Today's grape is called Mtsvane Kakhuri, which means "green from Kakheti" since it is thought to be native to the Kakheti region of Georgia. This is the grape that was also in the Tsinandali wine I wrote about way back in 2010.  Confusingly, both grapes are generally known and generally labeled merely as Mtsvane so to figure out which one you're dealing with, you have to know where in Georgia your wine is from. 
There are many other Mtsvane Something vines (the VIVC has around a dozen listed), but Goruli and Kakhuri are the most common. Of those two, Kakhuri is more widely planted with nearly 600 acres devoted to it as of 2004. Mtsvane Kakhuri is also grown to some extent in Armenia, Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine, but not really anywhere else.  Georgia's wine making history is thought to be older than any other country's, and many grapes currently grown there are said to have very ancient roots, but these claims are often difficult to back up.  Nearly all of the evidence for early wine making is archaeological and it gives little idea as to exactly what grapes may have been used for those ancient wines. Further, as we've noted above, names like Mtsvane are very common and it is unclear which Mtsvane may be referenced when there are are textual sources available.  Finally, Georgia has had a complicated relationship with Russia throughout its history and was stuck behind the Iron Curtain for much of the 20th Century.  This relationship may have corrupted or destroyed some records as well.
The wine that I was able to try was the NV (though it was possibly from 2011) Telavi Wine Cellar "Marani" Mtsvane from the Kakheti region of Georgia.  This bottle set me back about $12.  In the glass the wine was a silvery lemon color.  The nose was somewhat reserved with aromas of apricot, pear, and green apple with a weird chemical or metallic kind of smell.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly low to low acidity. There were broad flavors of pear, golden apple, white peach and lemon peel/lemon water.  The flavors were pretty washed out and when you coupled that with the fairly low acidity, you end up with a wine that's not a whole lot of fun to drink.  While there are a lot of good wines coming out of Georgia, there's still also a lot of lackluster and sometimes straight up bad wines coming out as well and it's difficult to know what you're getting yourself into when you're trying something new.  This isn't a bad wine, but merely an average one that I have a hard time imagining a place for at my table or in my cellar.
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February 2018