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Top Wines: Wine Expo Georgia (Tbilisi), June 2023

Wine Expo Georgia is the biggest wine trade show in Georgia (country). In 2023 it ran from Friday, June 2nd to Sunday, June 4th. Over 120 producers were represented (there were more producers there than what was listed on the official release on their website, so the exact number is not clear).

I managed to taste 215 wines + 1 limoncello from 56 producers.

The majority were rated “good” or “acceptable”. And by this, I mean wines that we can objectively say to have merit and enjoyable characteristics that make them successful.

I should be clear, that “good” really is good. These are wines you’d enjoy drinking. Getting a higher rating than “good” means producing a wine that stands out against all other wines tasted (above average), with better balance and relevant characteristics.

Only a few wines were rated “poor” or “faulty”. These are wines that would not be recommended at all (poor wines) or had suffered from wine faults such as volatile acidity, TCA (cork taint), volatile sulfur compounds, etc. at a level to make the wines unpalatable.

Though I try to be as objective as possible in these assessments, some things should be taken into account:

  • Blind tasting was not possible so small biases may exist inadvertently.
  • The tasting environment of a busy event is not ideal and some factors affect the tasting:
    • Environmental odors – from people walking around with coffee to strong perfume, etc. In addition, surrounded by trees, BBQ (mtsvadi) smoke occasionally billowing past.
    • Full rinsing of glasses between every tasting was impractical, though we tried as best as possible.
  • It was hot, and some wines couldn’t be served at the correct temperature, but I tried to account for this.

We only tasted a fraction of what was on offer. Some notes on that:

  • Some winemakers were at festivals in May (Including Zero Compromise, Saamuri, New Wine Festival ). So I did not repeat these. This means that some winemakers who made those lists like Baia’s Wines, Mosavali, 39 Qvevri, Mildiani (who took home a lot of awards) etc. didn’t get tasted.
  • I tried to balance between small, medium, and large producers.
  • I did not taste every wine from each vendor we tried.
  • I’m going to the Bolnisi festival on the 17th of June, so I mostly skipped Bolnisi wineries. Also, on Sunday almost all the Bolnisi wineries were absent? Maybe they had a big party on Saturday night! Look out for my Bolnisi festival list after June 17th.
  • There were well over 1000 wines available. I am only one human. Lol. Even the official awards from the expo are based on a tasting of 250 wines in total.

So, I definitely will have missed some excellent wines. But from what we did taste, I hope you will enjoy discovering some of the below which we gave upper category ratings.

If I missed anything awesome, please let us know your favorites on any of our social media posts for this article:

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(Links will be posted as soon as we post this articles on social)

Important Notes On The Official Release Of Award Winning Wines By Expo

An international panel of wine experts, led by MW Tim Atkin, rated 250 wines (according to the official release, but that number may have changed).

If you are not familiar with how the awards are set up, here are some notes that may interest you.

  • As Tamuna from Mamiseuli (2 silver awards) told me, winemakers have to pay 70 EUR per wine submitted for assessment. It may not sound a lot, but for very small micro-producers, submitting a lot of wines simply isn’t viable (they also pay for the stall at the festival and give away a lot of free wine).
  • As Nika from Vartiskhe Marani told me, they only paid to submit 3 wines, from the 8 or so they had at the show. 1 won a bronze medal (they told me 2 won, but I can’t find the Tsolikouri listed on the award list – sorry for any error on my end). 3 of their wines that make my list below were not submitted.
  • Some large wineries appear to submit top-end, limited reserve wines, many of which I couldn’t get to taste. If they had them at their stall, they were not displayed at the time I visited. Ultimately, great wine is great wine, and kudos to those companies for creating it. I’m just highlighting some potential disparity as food for thought. Clearly, the judging process itself is excellent, unbiased blind tasting, and ratings are given objectively.
  • Award criteria this year was 85-89 bronze, 90-94 silver, and 95-100 gold.
  • The list was released late Saturday. From the Gold list, only 2 wines were available on Sunday for me to taste easily. From the silver and bronze list, I did manage to taste a few, and some I’d already tasted on Fri/Sat. Given how many wines were at the show, and only 250 were rated by the panel, apparently, there is a high chance I tasted many wines that did not go to the panel – and undoubtedly I didn’t get to taste the majority of the wines that did go to the panel. So I hope their list and mine are both useful to offer a wider spread of tastings and reviews.

My Rating System

Ratings are based on Balance / Length / Intensity / Complexity and Style (ie. how they fit within the category of the style/intention of the wine). A “very good” rating would be made when 3 to 4 of these criteria have been met successfully. Some consideration is given to young wines that have the potential to arrive at this level in an expected timeframe of aging.

I’m offering a simple statement of wines I consider above average, not giving a score out of 100.

There are many more wine festivals coming soon, and we intend to publish our favorites for those too.

Wine Expo Georgia, Tbilisi (Fri June 2nd to Sun June 4th, 2023)

216 tastings, from 56 wineries.

In order of which I did the tastings, not in order of preference. 

Most wines below achieved “very good” or better. But I’ve also included a few that were on the cusp from good to very good and also deserved a mention. Note my “personal top 5” was based on a more subjective bias of wine styles I love. But everything on the list in general I’ve rated as objectively as possible.

  1. George Grey Winery
    1. Kisi 2022 (Semi Sweet) “Green Wine”. They add a natural blue pigment from grapes to amber wine to make it green.
    2. Rkatsiteli 2021 (Sweet) “Blue Wine”.
  2. Lavina
    1. Tavkveri Rose 2022 (Dry)
    2. Limoncello “Guriancello” Sweet liqueur. 
  3. Agidela
    1. Tavkveri Rose 2022 (Dry). Silver award.
    2. (Honorable mention: Goruli Mtsvane 2022 (Dry). I did not taste this at Expo as I already tasted it in April, and loved it. It won Silver at Expo).
  4. Askineli Brothers.
    1. Prima (White Rkatisteli, 10 months oak) 2019. If you are hating on oak right now, might not be for you.
    2. Saperavi Reserve (18 months oak) 2018.
  5. Orilo – Saperavi Khashmi 2021 (Dry Red, Euro, 6 month oak). Bronze award.
  6. Georgino – Saperavi Cabernet 2020.
  7. Georgian Wine House
    1. Goruli Mtsvane 2022 (Dry white, euro).
    2. Pinot Noir 2022 (Dry).
    3. Mukuzani (Red, Dry, Barrel Ferment).
    4. Saperavi 2022 Qvevri (Dry).
  8. Binekhi
    1. Ojaleshi 2020 (Qvevri, then 8 months oak). Silver award.
    2. (Honorable mention: Otskanuri Sapere  2020 (Dry). I did not taste this at Expo as I already tasted it in April, and loved it. Silver award).
    3. Mtsvane 2019 (Qvevri). Silver award.
  9. Babunidze – Saperavi 2021 (Dry. Qvevri 3 months. Then 15% in oak 6 months, then blended)
  10. Winery Zodi
    1. Tsolikouri 2022. Silver award.
    2. Dzelshavi 2022. Bronze award.
  11. Vartsikhe Marani
    1. Dzelshavi (20%) / Tsolikouri (80%) qvevri 2022. Personal Top 5 From Expo.
    2. Khikhvi qvevri 2022.
    3. Tsolikouri qvevri 2022.
    4. Aladasturi qvevri 2022. Bronze award.
    5. Ojaleshi qvevri  2020.
  12. Sanikidze – Kisi 2020 (white, euro).
  13. Sevsamora
    1. Chinnuri 2019 (white, euro).
    2. Tvishi 2022 (white, semi-sweet).
  14. Tsereteli – Mukuzani 2020
  15. Giuaani
    1. Manavis Mtsvane 2022 (white, euro). Bronze award. This wine, amongst others at Giuaani, features on our 6 course wine/food pairing menu that we send our tour guests to on this tour.
    2. Saperavi Barrel 2022 (red, oak). Silver award. It needs more time in the bottle, in my opinion, and I’d assume the award is based on this, as very young wines are typically rated based on potential as well. It has clear potential.
    3. Kisi / Mtsvane Qvevri 2019. Bronze award.
    4. Manavi Barrel 2014 (white, euro). The 2020 won the bronze, I didn’t taste it though.
  16. Vazisubani Estate
    1. 9 Bunches 2020 (white, euro. Mtsvane / Kisi / Khikhvi / Rkatsiteli). Bronze award.
    2. 3 Qvevris 2021 (Mtsvane / Kisi / Khikhvi). 
    3. Saperavi 2020 (euro, 18 month oak). Bronze award. Personal Top 5 From Expo.
  17. Chelti (they won 2 gold awards, I didn’t get to taste either. I tasted 5 wines in total with them.)
    1. Rkatsiteli (80%) / Mtsvane 2020 (12 month oak).
    2. Khikhvi Qvevri 2021. Silver award.
    3. Kisi Qvevri 2021. Silver award.
    4. Saperavi qvevri 2019. bronze award.
    5. Saperavi qvevri + 12 month oak 2017.
  18. Shalva Gvaramadze
    1. Mtsvane reserve 2017.
    2. Kardenakhi PDO 2011 (Fortified).
  19. IQVE. The winemaker asked me to note that their Khikhvi 2022 got a bronze award. In my notes I listed the tannins were still a little strong, in my opinion, but I can totally see why this could get a bronze award on the basis of clear potential. I look forward to trying it in 6 to 12 months :-)
    1. Kisi 2022. Silver award.
    2. Saperavi Budeshuri 2022. Silver award.
  20. Sherma – Tavkveri 2019
  21. Vardiashvili
    1. Rkatsiteli Qvevri 2021. Silver award. Personal Top 5 From Expo.
    2. Saperavi Qvevri 2021. Silver award.
    3. Mukuzani 2021 (3 weeks qvevri, 9 months oak) Personal Top 5 From Expo.
  22. Winery Pi – Rkatsiteli (80%) / Mtsvane Qvevri (Akura 2021).
  23. Shumi / Iberuli. I tasted 7 wines, but only 1 was a medal winner. Apparently, I got all the vintages that had not won medals, apart from the Tsinandali, and only 3 from what I tasted made my list here.
    1. Shumi Tsinandali 2022. Bronze Medal.
    2. Iberuli Saperavi Bio 2020.
    3.  Shumi Napareuli 2021.
  24. Lomiskareli
    1. Tsolikouri 2021. Gold award.
    2. Tsolikouri 2022. Silver award.
    3. Saperavi Anaga 2021 (12 month oak).
    4. Mukuzani 2021 (14 month oak). Silver award.
  25. Ancient Valley
    1. Tsolikouri 2022. The 2021 got a silver, I didn’t get to taste it.
    2. “Gvino Rachulad” Rkatsiteli / Rachuli Mtsvane / Tsolikouri 2021. Silver award.
    3. Otskhanuri Sapere 2022 (4 months oak). The 2021 got bronze, I didn’t taste it.
    4. Racha Saperavi (50%) / Kakheti Saperavi (50%) 2022.
  26. Marnaveli – Tvishi 2022 Silver award..
  27. Brother’s Khutishvili – Saperavi 2016. The 2020 Kisi got silver, they had none left :-(
  28. Chaleli – Chinnuri / Goruli Mtsvane 2022.
  29. Rotcho’s Vineyards
    1. Mtsvane Qvevri 2021.
    2. Rkatsiteli Qvevri 2021. Silver award.
  30. Gida Wines
    1. Kisi Qvevri 2020.
    2. Khikhvi Qvevri 2021. Gold award.
  31. Mamiseuli
    1. Tavkveri 2021. Bronze award.
    2. Rkatsiteli 2022. The 2021 won silver, but they had none left. I tasted it last year and loved it but clearly, it’s aged nicely.
  32. Bolnuri – Saperavi 2019 (semi-sweet).
  33. Winery Dolidze – Chkhaveri Qvevri 2020. The Chkhaveri Chqepi 2021 got a bronze, but they didn’t have any left.
  34. Pearl of Imereti
    1. Tsolikouri 2022. Silver award.
    2. “Alersi” Tsitska 2020. Bronze award.
    3. Ojaleshi 2019. 

76 wines, from 34 wineries in the upper category! We’ll be back with more lists from the upcoming Merano Festival (at Chateau Mukhrani – 11th June) and Bolnisi Festival (17th June)

Thanks to The Amazing Winemakers!

Congratulations to all the amazing wineries that made it into our upper category ratings. As well as all the other amazing winemakers who continue to make the Georgian wine scene one of the most exciting and diverse in the world!

 Georgian Wine Crash Course & Tasting Cheat Sheet / Guide
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About the author

Pro food & drink travel writer, photographer & podcaster since 2013. WSET2 (distinction). Georgian Sommelier (In Progress). 200+ wineries visited in Georgia. Many 1000's of natural/qvevri wines tasted since 2016. Tommo & his wife have now visited 95+ countries in search of food and wine. They decided to make Georgia (Country) their home base in 2019 and establish Eat This! Food & Wine Tours.

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