The 2012 Orgo Saperavi is a wine I knew existed in theory but had never tasted before until now. Winemaking in The Republic of Georgia dates back 8,000 years. I had read about the wonders of Georgian wine in literary novels. I had heard about how delicious Georgian wines were from my Georgian friends. I have drunk Georgian wines at home supplied by friends who traveled to Russia, as well as purchased locally from food emporiums catering to Russian speakers. I have even been to The Republic of Georgia back when it was part of the Soviet Union and drank wine there. However, these experiences were simply exercises in the exotic. I never tasted a Georgian wine that reaches the level of complexity and vibrancy as the 2012 Orgo Saperavi.
Orgo, the winery, is located in the Kakheti region in eastern Georgia. Saperavi, the grape, can make full-bodied, long-aging wines. At Orgo, young winemaker Temuri Dakashvili, who is a fourth generation vigneron, ferments the wine in clay amphoras called kveri. Temuri studied winemaking in Germany but is part of a wave of young Georgian winemakers dedicated to preserving the ancient art of kveri winemaking. Temuri sources the fruit from a small 2.5 hectare vineyard he owns with his brother. The vineyard has vines aged from 50-80 years old that are deep rooted in intensely mineral river bank soils. Only native yeasts are used. Maceration with skins, seeds and stems lasts for 14-18 days in clay kveri. Then the heavy sediments and skins are removed and the wine continues to mature for another 6 months. No oak is used and neither is the wine fined or filtered. This description might lead you to think this is some crazy, strange, “natural” wine, but it is not. It is a wine of sophistication that will appeal to both wine geek and to those looking to try something new but not necessarily weird. Lovers of Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – will find much to appreciate and enjoy here.
The flavors are tangy with plum and pomegranate flavors and lots of spice notes. It has soft, rounded tannins and a welcoming lightness given its full-bodied expression. An aromatic melange of fruit and spices rev up as the wine opens to air. An interesting fact of the Saperavi grape is that it is a teinturier grape which means its skin and flesh are red. Teinturier grapes are rarely used on their own, but are typically blended with other varietals for color. Saperavi is the exception. If anyone has ever had Georgian red wine before, it should probably be emphasized that the 2012 Orgo Saperavi is a dry wine labeled at 12.5% alcohol by volume.
Along with its famous wines, Georgian hospitality and cuisine are also legendary. I can attest to this fact. Georgian Feasts, or supra, can last hours, often all day, with food overflowing on the table and are officiated by a tamada, or master of ceremonies, to keep the toasts rolling and the spirits high. Back when I visited Tbilisi in the late ’80’s, I was traveling with friends who had family living there. Despite the fact that stores stood empty, when dining at private homes meals were bountiful and complicated. As an honored guest, they would literally take the shirt off their back and give it to me if given the chance. One time I stood admiring a painting on a living room wall. The host noticed me, walked over to the painting, took it off the wall and presented it to me. I had no intention of absconding with their cherished painting nor did I want to insult their generosity, so luckily I managed to convince them that I had no way of transporting such a large picture back home with me. After that incident, I learned not to let my eye rest on anything for too long!
It is nearly time for our greatest American feast, Thanksgiving, when eating and drinking all day long is also the tradition. If you are looking for a fuller red to serve at your table, the 2012 Orgo Saperavi, with its tannins in check, should marry nicely with the baking spices found in many classic Thanksgiving side dishes. Georgian cuisine uses many ingredients that one might find on a typical Thanksgiving table like walnuts, fruit sauces and even turkey, so I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest the 2012 Orgo Saperavi as a Thanksgiving wine. However, if you remain doubtful, do yourself a favor and cook up some lamb and then pop open a bottle of the Orgo. – Anya Balistreri