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Top Wines: Zero Compromise & Saamuri Festivals, May 2023

Over 3 days of wine festivals (May 5th+6th+7th 2023), I managed to taste 231 wines from 69 producers,  including 2 cider producers, who had cider, not wine :-)

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. I think the standard overall this year is very worth celebrating and is a testament to the growth around better standards in natural wine making in Georgia.

Only a minority of 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.

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 indoor festival is not ideal and some factors affect the tasting:
    • Environmental odors – from people walking around with coffee to strong perfume etc.
    • Inconsistent lighting 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 little over half of all vendors on offer.

We did not taste every wine from each vendor.

It should be noted that we skipped some wineries which we know to typically be consistently great, in favor of trying some lesser-known wineries. So wineries that we’ve found to be consistently good or very good in the past, like Archil Guniava, Tanini, Demi’s Marani, Tedo’s Marani and a few others, were skipped due to time constraints, and may very well have made it on the list below if we’d had the time.

So, we may 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.

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

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.

Zero Compromise (Natural Wine Association) May 5th + 6th

165 tastings, from 52 wineries.

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

All wines below achieved “very good” or better. Including a few that were on the cusp from good to very good and also deserved a mention.

  1. Dano Wines (Kakheti). Cabernet / Pinot / Saperavi 2022.
  2. Kerovani (Kakheti). Kesane (Rkatsiteli – European) 2022.
  3. Ghvardzelashvili (Kakheti). Jiga 2022.
  4. Artanuli Gaprenili (Kakheti). Khikhvi / Gvinis Tetral 2022.
  5. Jakeli (Kakheti)
    1. Kisi / Mtsvane 2021.
    2. Mtsvane 2020.
    3. Rkatsiteli / Kisi 2019.
  6. Patridzis Rachuli (Racha). Mujuretuli / Alexandrouli rosé 2022.
  7. Samtavisi (Shida Kartli).
    1. Goruli Mtstavne 2022.
    2. Buza 2022.
  8. Baias Wine (Imereti).
    1. Karkhuna 2021.
    2. Tsolikouri / Tsitska / Krakhuna 2021.
  9. Gaioz Sopromadze (Imereti).
    1. Melqo 2021 (Note: intense butter popcorn – if you don’t like buttery wines, you won’t be happy.)
    2. Chkhaveri (red) 2021.
  10. Kobidzeebis marani (Guria). Jani / Skhilatubani (red) 2021.
  11. Lomtadze’s marani (Kakheti). Saperavi 2021.
  12. Vellino (Kakheti).
    1. Rkatsiteli 2022.
    2. Mtsvane 2022.
  13. Manavi Wines (Kakheti).
    1. Rkatsiteli / Mtsvane (European) 2022.
    2. Mtsvane (European) 2022.
    3. Rkatsiteli (Qvevri) 2021.
    4. Rkatsiteli / Mtsvane (Qvevri) 2021.
    5. Saperavi (Qvevri) 2021.
  14. Iases Marani (Kakheti).
    1. Kisi 2021.
    2. Rkatsiteli Pet-Nat 2021.
  15. Kolagis (Kakheti).
    1. Saperavi Pet-Nat 2022.
    2. Rkatsiteli (Qvevri, 6 months skins) 2021. Personal Top Pick From All Wines Tasted.
    3. Rkatsiteli (Qvevri, 1 month skins) 2022.
  16. Martvilis Marani (Samegrelo).
    1. Tsolikouri (with 1 day on Aladasturi skins) 2022.
  17. Antadze (Kakheti).
    1. Mtsvane (10% skins) 2022.
    2. Mtsvane (100% skins) 2022.
  18. Mikheil Madzgharashvili Cellar IVANURI. Rkatsiteli 2022.
  19. Khvedeliani Cellar (Racha). Mujuretuli / Alexandrouli 2022.
  20. Lagvani (Kakheti).
    1. Kisi 2021.
    2. Saperavi 2021.

35 wines, from 20 wineries that made it into the higher category!

Saamuri (@ Fabrica) 7th May

66 Tastings, from 15 wineries + 2 cider producers

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

All wines below achieved “very good” or better. Including a few that were on the cusp from good to very good and also deserved a mention.

  1. Ori Gvari (Racha). Dzelshavi 2022.
  2. Tsalka Cider (Kvemo Kartli) (I don’t normally rate ciders, but here we go! As all are made from a mixed blend of up to 40 types of apples, it was a bit tricky to list them, essentially 3 out of the 4 tasted, which excluded the very driest of the offerings, made the list. The 4th one was also good, just below the other 3)
    1. Extra Brut (Green Label).
    2. Brut.
    3. Medium.
  3. Vintners & Vagabonds (Aidan Raftery – Imereti).
    1. Tsolikouri (9 months on lees, no skins) 2021.
    2. Tsolikouri (⅓ qvevri under flor, ⅓ steel tank, ⅓ French oak under flor – 60 years old barrel. No skins) 2021.
    3. Aladasturi (10 days whole berry maceration. 9 months qvevri) 2021.
    4. Ojaleshi (2 weeks skins. 9 months qvevri) 2021.
  4. Kiketi Farm (Kartli).
    1. Krakhuna (3 weeks 100% skin contact. Grapes from Imereti) 2021.
    2. Rkatsiteli (3 weeks skins. Grapes from Gurjaani) 2021.
    3. Otskhanuri Sapere (2 weeks skins. Grapes from Imereti) 2021.
    4. Saperavi (2 weeks skins. Grapes from Mukuzani) 2021.
  5. Menabde (Racha). Alexadrouli / Mujuretuli / Shavi Kabastoni / Rhiskili 2022.
  6. Didgori Winemaking (Racha). Tsolikouri Pet-Nat 2022.
  7. Imerlishvelebis (Kakheti). Rkatsiteli 2022. Note: They had two Rkatsiteli’s from 2022, which was which, and why, was hard to ascertain because of the language barrier.
  8. Lapuri Wine (Kakheti).
    1. Raksiteli / Mtsvane 2022.
    2. Saperavi / Kachichi (Abkhazian grape) 2021.
  9. Ilto’s Valley (Kakheti). Khikhvi 2022.
  10. Chatzivariti (North Greece).
    1. Xinomavro (red) 2021.
    2. Legoska (red) 2020.
  11. Granja Farm (North Italy). Blend of 10 red grapes, including Barbera, from 70 to 150 year old vines.
  12. Freya’s (Imereti). Aladasturi 2022.

22 wines, from 12 wineries in the upper category!

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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