Monday, 4 August 2014

Orange Wine? Georgia's Tblvino Quevris, 2011

Ok, I'll admit it, I'm way too late in the game on this one; I read an article about Marks & Spencer promoting an unusual orange wine from Georgia last year. We're used to reds, whites, ros├ęs, but orange? This is new territory for us supermarket shopping Brits. The curiosity caused a great amount of hype, and it was apparently so popular with the Georgian community who'd found a taste of home, that it sold out within three weeks! Since then, not a lot has been said about it, but having a little browse at the range in my local M&S, I came across that very bottle; Tblvino Quevris, 2011. (Clearly there's not a large amount of homesick Georgian's in Cheltenham!)

For those that don't know - I didn't know, I had to read about it - orange wines, or amber wines as they are often called, are quite simply white wines produced more like reds.. Not orangey in any way then. The grape juice is left to ferment with the skins (and often the stems and seeds), resulting in a darker colour thanks to the pigments in the skins. This prolonged contact also means that there is a higher tannin level, giving the wine a bigger body with more texture; the kind of thing that you'd associate with red wine.

So ultimately, orange wines have the best of both worlds; they've got a white grape profile in terms of freshness and minerality, but gain the structure and textural quality of a red.

Now we’ve got that sorted, let’s talk about the Tblvino Quevris, just don’t ask me to pronounce it. It comes from the Kakheti region in Eastern Georgia, using 100% Rkatsiteli grapes, which are one of the oldest known varieties in the world. It has followed the 8,000 year old Georgian winemaking tradition, fermenting and maturing the wine in large clay jars – known as Qvevri – that are buried in the ground for several months.

The bottle tells me it’s “a dry, gently textured, quince flavoured wine” that you should serve chilled as an aperitif, or with seafood. Quince is a pretty accurate description really, that tart astringent fruit is like no other, and there’s something quite floral about it, which is evident in the wine. Tblvino Quevris is not mouth-watering-ly fruity like a white; there's a distinct savouriness about it, which is interesting for pairing with food.

Controversially, I ignored the recommendation and sipped my orange wine with a hefty bowl of mushroom, truffle pasta – I’m not normally that posh, I promise! It works perfectly for foods that are tricky to match wines to; those which require more than a white but don’t want to be obliterated by a red. I think the Tblvino Quevris would stand up to fragrant lamb dishes, cut through the fats in pork, and make a wonderful accomplice to any simple pasta topped with a healthy supply of parmesan. Umami and orange wines make very good friends.

If you want to be that kind of person who takes a wine that will spark debate/divide opinion to a dinner party, then this is it – it’s pretty ‘edgy’ – and at £8.99 from Marks & Spencer, it won’t break the bank. It’s definitely a grower; the more you drink, the more it opens up and - if you want to get philosophical about it - you understand the wine.*
*CRINGE

Orange wines are not the sort to crack open after a crappy day at work, where you pour yourself a massive glass and switch off for the evening, they’re more challenging, require a bit of thought, and desperately want to be drunk with food. So, keep your eyes peeled for the Tblvino Quevris in M&S, it’s worth being adventurous!

Have you tried this wine, or any other orange wines? Did you have it with food? Let us know in the comments!

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