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Top Wines: New Wine Festival Tbilisi, May 2023

The New Wine Festival in Mtatsminda park is the biggest single day wine festival in Tbilisi. Over 230 producers were represented. I managed to taste 71 wines from 18 producers. The weather conditions made moving quickly between producers more challenging.

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, with better balance and relevant characteristics.

Our focus for tastings at this festival were mainly medium size or larger producers, with only a few micro-producers. Only a few wines were rated “poor” or “faulty”. These are wines that would not be recommended (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.

It should be noted it was a very wet event, and still surprisingly busy given how wet it was. This made the tasting environment quite challenging.

Though we 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 outdoor festival 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, it was wet, BBQ (mtsvadi) smoke often billowing past. It was more challenging than most festivals.
    • Inconsistent lighting due to some vendors being under red colored marquees, for assessing appearance and color.
    • Full rinsing of glasses between every tasting was impractical, though we tried as best as possible.

We only tasted a fraction of what was on offer, compared to last weekend at Zero Compromise / Saamuri festivals. This was mainly due to the weather. Once we got a space inside each winemaker’s marquee, we stuck around a bit longer than usual. Some winemakers were at both festivals, so we didn’t taste them again.

Even so, we did not taste every wine from each vendor we tried.

So, we definitely will have missed some excellent wines. But from what we did taste, we hope you will enjoy discovering some of the below which we gave upper category ratings. With 3 days of wine expo coming up next month, I hope to be able to get a much more comprehensive sample there.

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

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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.

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

New Wine Festival, Mtatsminda Park, Tbilisi (Sat 13th May, 2023)

71 tastings, from 18 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.

  1. Udabno Wines. Danakharuli 2022. (A new winery, their first vintage, focus on quite a lot of rare grapes. This was the best of the ones I tasted. I look forward to future vintages for improvements across the range).
  2. Mildiani (Large producer with some smaller batch wines).
    1. Rkatsiteli Reserve 2018. 6 month qvevri, 18 month oak.
    2. Merlot Chocolate Liqueur – sweet. (A new product. They assured me no artificial flavorings were added. That being the case, this was really very interesting).
  3. Togonidze. I’ve been a fan of this winery for some time, we often include them on our Telavi 1 day tours as they also cook higher level homemade Georgian cuisine and make consistently exciting wines.
    1. Mtsvane / Rkatsiteli / Kisi 2022
    2. Kisi 2021
    3. Saperavi Budeshuri 2021 Personal top 2 wine of the festival.
  4. Bina 37. Mtsvane 2022. Enjoyable, for drinking young, with food. Bina 37 is a rooftop restaurant.
  5. 39 Qvevri. Grouli Mtsvane 2022.
  6. Mosavali.
    1. Goruli Mtsvani 2019 (No skins, steel tank)
    2. Saperavi Reserve 2018 (2 oak barrels, blended together)
  7. Koncho & Co (Premium brand of Kindzmaruli corp. Makes 60k liters per year, total)
    1. Mtsvivani 2019.
    2. Ojaleshi / Saperavi 2022.
    3. “Amber” Rkatsiteli / Kisi / Khikhvi / Kakhuri Mtsvane / Mtsvivani 2020.
  8. Zangaura (Rare)
    1. Khikhvi 2021.
    2. Saperavi Rosé 2018 (This is a fascinating, complex rosé rather than the light, crisp summer drinking style).
    3. Saperavi 2020. Personal top 2 wine of the festival.
  9. Marbano. Saperavi 2022. We caught them at the end as everything was being packed away. They have impressed me in the past, and the 2022 Saperavi just makes it to the cusp of the upper category. If I’d been able to try more they may have had a stronger presence on this list.

17 wines, from 9 wineries in the upper category! We’ll be back with a longer list when we hope to have better weather and a lot more time at Wine Expo in early 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 natural wines 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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