A trip around Georgia | Kakheti: Part 2

by Ophelia Hirst

Mildiani

The next day somehow managed to surpass the already heady memories of the previous. A morning visit to Mildiani was a great example of a massive producer (circa 3 million bottles) getting it right. Winemaker Gogi is a bit of a legend in these parts, consulting for various wineries and famous for saving the Kisi grape from extinction, and wasn鈥檛 too proud to admit that he didn鈥檛 enjoy having to oak some of his wines for the sake of the demands of export markets. A real highlight was a red wine made from Otskhanuri Sapere grape, from the more westerly region of Imereti.

Gogi

Winemaker Gogi Dakishvili at Mildiani

Marani Casreli

Then to the most eccentric but arguably best visit of the trip: Marani Casreli. I think it鈥檚 fair to say we all fell a little bit in love with the winemaker Misha. He opened up his home to us, and cooked us an amazingly delicious pork in a sauce made of Saperavi, chilli and peppercorns. An ex-medic who started his small estate with some doctor friends in 2015, he is making wines in the traditional way but of incredible purity. These are very natural wines 鈥 not to say they鈥檙e farmy and funky 鈥 but made with absolutely no additives and totally vegan friendly. For me, he had perfectly judged his Saperavi 鈥 a joyous, bright and bouncy fruity red wine, served slightly chilled and just glorious. Certainly a winemaker to look out for.

Misha

The infectiously passionate Misha from Casreli and his delicious white blend ‘Tsangala’

The agricultural Research Centre

Our final day started off with a visit to the Agricultural Research Centre. Now, this may sound very dull, but far from it. This excellent facility is propagating small cuttings from all over the country, either found by themselves, wild cuttings sent in by farmers, or working on crossings. They have been instrumental in bringing many of the indigenous grapes that were almost wiped out during the Soviet era back. We were also lucky enough to taste some of the wine they make from the grapes planted here 鈥 these are not about winemaking, but made in a totally clean and pure way to get an idea of what the expression of the grape is. There were 2 standouts 鈥 Jani and Adanasuri 鈥 2 reds that have only recently been identified, and wines to certainly look out for. They are much lighter in body and tannins, so arguably more to our tastes in the UK.

Research Centre

Tasting the pure iterations of these indigenous grapes. On the right you’ll see us being shown a yet-unidentified vine, marked simply as ‘X’

This was an incredible trip and I feel very privileged to have been invited to see this remarkable country in such detail. Whether you鈥檙e looking for a wine-related trip or not, Georgia is a must-visit country. They are lovely people, have amazing food and wine, and the country offers fabulous value for money and a sense of energy that is really quite infectious; I certainly cannot wait to go back. I also implore you to seek out Georgian food and wine in the UK – whether it鈥檚 buying a mix of Vano鈥檚 wines from Qvevri Wine Cellars from L&S, or looking up your nearest Georgian restaurant, or ordering a bottle when you spot it on a wine list. Everything about this country is both familiar yet unusual, and once hooked, the thirst for anything Georgian proves to be unquenchable. Gaumarjos!

Enormous thanks goes to Swirl Wine Group, notably our host Madeleine Waters and Sarah Abbott MW, who have been a godsend in helping better our knowledge of Georgia and its wines. Thank you also to Maka Tarashvili, our incredible guide, and the National Wine Agency of Georgia, who kindly promoted this trip. @GeorgianwineUK. www.georgianwine.uk.

Browse our Georgian wines here