Celebrating Georgian wine

News from the 8th annual New Wine Festival

By Sarah May Grunwald for wine-chronicles.com 

(Opening of qvevri photo, above, by Bruno Almeida, sommelier)

12 June 2017

The eighth New Wine Festival, annually held by The Georgian Wine Club, took place on Saturday, May 13th at the Mtatsminda Park, a famous landscaped park located at the top of Mount Mtatsminda overlooking the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

The occasion? A yearly celebration of local wine and culture, with local musicians, and nearly 200 wine producers pouring 2016 vintage wines.

The festival is much more a cultural event, despite its wine roots. I attended with a group of journalists and wine professionals. We decided to arrive as early as possible because we were warned that, as the day went on, the festival would turn more into a big, crowded party rather than a wine tasting event. We were greeted by the always-professional Iago Bitarishvili, who gave us a short description of the event, glasses and a booklet with information on the many participating producers.

The festival was divided into 102 small, family wineries and 96 larger, more commercial producers. While it was not crowded, the majority of us proceeded to the area of traditional Georgian producers (those making wine in qvevri, see here for more about that).

Sarah May Grunwald at the wine festival

Most of these are small, and family owned and it was a delight to meet new producers and taste wines I haven’t tasted before, as well as catch up with winemakers I know well and have the opportunity to taste their 2016 wines. 2016 was an interesting year, with a multitude of new wineries popping up. Highlighting this movement were fresh, younger faces, Georgian and foreign. It was refreshing to see the number of young people who have embraced this ancient style of winemaking along with organic farming and low interventionist techniques in the cellar.

Rare bottle of Pink Rkatsiteli by Chateau Khashmi: only six cases were produced

Visitors who arrived before 1 pm were presented with the annual opening of the city’s qvevri. Guests who attended the ceremony enjoyed a performance of traditional polyphony as well as the opportunity to drink wine, made from the aromatic grape variety Kisi, straight from the qvevri, which is always a wonderful experience.

The New Wine Festival highlights the commitment of Georgians to their wine culture, and allows the general public to have access to wineries and new wines of which they may not otherwise be aware.

As Georgia moves forward, perhaps this flood of winemakers will push the industry to make better wines alongside healthier and more sustainable vineyard practices. Unfortunately, as the day heated up, the lack of ice buckets and temperature control was detrimental for showing wines. The festival is a great introduction to Georgian wine culture in general, because it focuses on culture, and there is a family friendly convivial atmosphere throughout the grounds, but, perhaps for people in wine trade, it might be best to attend the more trade specific Expo, which is held every June.

Many thanks to Sarah of Taste Georgia for keeping readers up to speed on latest trends in Georgian wine. 


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