Saperavi & More

Friday, May 13, 2022

SAPERAVI:  This week I am kicking off by talking about Saperavi – the native Georgian red that has been around for several thousand years and is the mainstay and backbone of Georgian red wines. A variety that I love and have written several articles on.

Here in Australia Saperavi kicked off from around the mid-2000s. I can’t remember whether the first one I tried was from Patritti Wines in Adelaide or Symphonia Wines in the Victorian High Country. In the last fifteen years or so, the number of producers has grown to 30 and there will be more on the way for sure. Most of the Aussie Saperavi that I have tasted have been excellent wines, varying in style from being big Aussie reds through to softer, more elegant (Georgian) in style.

The reason I bring this up is that my Pennsylvanian friend, Richard Rocca, writing as “The Wine Pirate”, has just published an excellent article (see link below) on how the Finger Lakes Region of New York State (the US spiritual home of Saperavi) are promoting their Saperavi with their upcoming Festival. They are combining Saperavi “walkabout” tastings with Georgian food to entice people to come and try this fantastic variety. In my “Saperavi-Sensational” article published back in 2017 in WBM magazine, I tasted a number of excellent Finger Lakes Saperavi from producers, Dr Konstantin Frank Wine, Standing Stone Vineyard and McGregor Vineyards.

The Finger Lakes Saperavi is cool climate wine and therefore tighter and less forward than most of the Aussies which are grown in warmer regions. This includes the world beating, Cirami Estate Saperavi, from the Riverland, whose 2015 vintage won the world’s first international (non-Georgian) Saperavi competition in 2017, beating wines from seven different countries – including all the Aussie Saperavi producers at the time.

As far as promoting the variety here, a few years ago there was a combined tasting of several (8 or 10 from memory) Saperavi producers held in McLaren Vale, but that is about it.

I think it is high time that all the Australian Saperavi producers get together and organise a major tasting (including the Georgian wines which are available here) in conjunction with Georgian food in either Sydney or Melbourne, to show Australian wine drinkers how magnificent this variety is and how divinely it matches the appropriate food.

Given the current events in the Ukraine, and not knowing what that Russian lunatic might do next, some support for the wines of Georgia, especially their Saperavi (they have plenty of other really interesting wines) would be a good thing to do, while promoting our Aussie ones at the same time.

Maybe the event/s could be held at the Georgian Embassy/Consulate to add to the status and atmosphere of event.

So come on, how about it? Surely somebody out there could put such an event together!

Article Link:

TALL ORDER:  We hear about “high altitude” vineyards being 800-1,000 metres above sea level which seem pretty high given that most vineyards are within 300 metres above sea level. But the world’s highest vineyard (so far) is in Tibet on the Cai Na Xaing plateau not far from Lhasa at – wait for it! – 3,563 metres above sea level. WOW, holy-carp Batman! – That is 1,335 metres higher than the top of Mount Kosciuszko!! There are no reports so far on the wine quality but they state that they do get the grapes ripe enough to make wine.

Well, have a great week, stay safe and #chooseaustralianwine and when possible try #emergingvarieties.  Cheers! Dan T.

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about one of the unsung heroes of the Australian wine industry the, Cabernet/Shiraz blend. An Australian hero because it represents one of Australia’s greatest contributions to the wine world. This blend originated in Australia and is still exceptionally rare in other countries. The addition of Shiraz to Cabernet eliminates the hollow or doughnut on the Cabernet mid-palate and greatly enhances the overall depth and complexity of the wine. It should be lauded more!!

A fabulous example of the Aussie star is the iconic Yalumba “The Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz. Over 48 vintages since 1962 Yalumba has issued 60 Signature releases, with the occasional vintage being skipped and in other vintages releasing more than one Signature wine. Each release bears the signature of someone who has made a significant contribution in the success of Yalumba.

At a recent event prior to the launching of the 2018 The Signature (dedicated to retiring Managing Director, Nick Waterman), we were treated to tasting three pairs of The Signature – the 2016 & 2018 pair, the 2006 & 2008 pair and finally the 1996 & 1998 pair.

All six wines were sublime and it was fascinating to see the evolution of the wines over the two decades, with the 1990s still being quite tight and a little bit more reserved than their younger siblings. The wine style has progressed so as make it more approachable when young, which is so appropriate for our “drink now” society, yet they still manage to maintain the structure and backbone that will see these wines age for eons.

The new release 2018 is sensational, from a great vintage it has delightful aromas of red fruits, gentle plums, vanillin oak and just a wisp of mint. The palate has excellent red berry flavours perfectly integrated with elegant tannins making it delightful and quite complex. This vintage is very refined and brilliantly approachable, yet on the long, lingering finish there are tightish, slightly grippy tannins making it an outstanding food wine now, with the potential to age into a classic “Signature” Cabernet Shiraz over time. It will be fascinating to see this wine at 20-years-old in 2038.

It is hard to imagine a better ambassador or spokesman for the iconic Cabernet/Shiraz blend than from this 173-year-old family winery – Australia’s oldest family owned winery.

PS: Don’t tell anybody, but the Yalumba 1996 “The Signature” Cabernet Shiraz is so utterly magnificent at the moment, that I will be checking out the next few wine auctions around the country to see if I can get my hands on some of this exquisite wine.

Winery Link: