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Top Wines: Zero Compromise Tbilisi (Natural Wine Association) Review, May 9th+10th 2024

Over 2 days of the Zero Compromise Tbilisi wine festival (May 9th+10th 2024), I managed to taste 147 wines from 50 producers, including 2 ciders and 1 beer :-)

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 enough, enjoyable wines. “Acceptable” is ok everyday table wine, not offensive, but not noteworthy.

Only a minority of wines were rated “poor” or “faulty”. These are wines that would not be worth drinking (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.

Some with minor faults may be actually of interest to some natural wine drinkers, as small amounts do not necessarily destroy the wine experience, and there seems to be a preference in some palates for “a bit funky”, residual yeast tastes and other things that are very much a subjective preference. Up to you!

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 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 I tried as best as possible.
  • I do often tell producers to “show me the best 2 wines” or something similar, so I am probably getting a better experience than someone who just says “saperavi, please”.
  • Way more Pet-Nats this year! Apparently quite a few made my list, either something is going right in Georgia on this front, or I’ve developed a Pet-Nat bias after years of mostly qvevri wines!

We only tasted a little over half of all vendors on offer.

We did not taste every wine from each vendor.

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.

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. My reviews for New Wine Festival & Artisan Wine Fair (Wyndam Grand) 2024 are posted here.

Zero Compromise (Natural Wine Association) May 9th + 10th 2024

147 tastings, from 50 wineries.

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

All wines below achieved “very good” or on the cusp of “good” to “very good”. Essentially, wines that are noteworthy. But not all will be the preference of every palate!

  1. Kerovani (Kakheti).
    1. Rkatsiteli Pet-Nat 2022
    2. Saperavi 2022 (dry, qvevri)
    3. [Honarable mention: Kesane 2022 (dry, Rkatsiteli, Euro). Made the list last year, I did not re-taste this year]
  2. Manavi Wines (note: all the pet-nats had a reductive note on the nose that faded after some aeration)
    1. Rkatsiteli 2023 (dry, Euro)
    2. Mtsvane Pet-Nat 2023 (dry) – Personal Top Pick
    3. Saperavi Pet-Nat 2023 (dry)
    4. Rkatsiteli 2022 (dry, 15% of grapes aged in oak, then re-blended with the rest of the wine)
  3. Tilisma (Kakheti)
    1. Saperavi Pet-Nat 2023 (dry)
    2. Rkatsiteli 2022 (dry, Euro, carbonic)
  4. Dano Wines (Kakheti) – Rkatsiteli 2022 (dry, qvevri)
  5. Kabaj (Slovenia)
    1. Pinot Grigio 2019 (qvevri, 2 years oak)
    2. “Conde” Blend 2009 (qvevri, 2 years oak, 13 years on flor)
  6. Tren de Vida (Valencia, Spain)
    1. Albariño 2022 (dry, Euro)
    2. Muscat (+ 10% Syrah/Granacha) 2022 (dry, Euro) – Personal Top Pick
  7. Kolagis (Kakheti)
    1. “Rkaperavi” Rkatsiteli / Saperavi Pet-Nat 2023 (dry)
    2. “Chinuravi” Chinuri / Saperavi Pet-Nat 2023 (dry) – this wine is crazy (ie. controversial), so not for the average drinker if not familiar with wild natural wines. It was interesting for me!
  8. Lagvani (Kakheti)
    1. Rkatsiteli (45%) / Mtsvane (45%) / Saperavi (5%) Pet Nat 2023
    2. Rkatsiteli 2019 (dry, qvevri)
  9. Samtvisi (Shida Kartli) – Goruli Mtsvane 2023 (dry, carbonic)
  10. Nagutnebi (Imereti) – Aladusturi Pet-Nat 2023 (dry) – Personal Top Pick – but note this has all the pepper notes of a good Aladasturi, for most Pet-Nat lovers they may find that odd, for me I think it’s a wonderfully different Pet-Nat.
  11. Igavi Wines (Imereti) – Tsolikouri 2022 (dry)
  12. Fonterenza (Italy) – Brunello DOCG 2021 (Sangiovese, dry, 18 months oak)
  13. Babas Marani – Tsolikouri 2023 (dry, Euro)
  14. Franz Strohmeier (Austria)
    1. Zweigelt 2020 (dry, 2 years oak)
    2. Blauer Wildbacher 2021 (dry, 1 year oak)
  15. Kereselidze (Racha) – Tsolikouri 2023 (dry, Euro)
  16. Demi’s Wine (Kartli) – Tavkveri 2017 (dry, qvevri)
  17. Vazha Getiashvili (Kakheti) – Saperavi 2022 (naturally semi-sweet)
  18. Sopromadze (Imereti) – Chkhaveri Red 2022 (dry)
  19. Patara (Kakheti)
    1. Saperavi 2022 (dry, qvevri)
    2. Rkatsiteli 2022 (dry middle fraction, qvevri) – they pumped the middle and top fraction of the same qvevri separately and bottled separately. The slightly heavier middle fraction was a little better, in my opinion, but if you like lighter qvevri wines, the top fraction may be to your taste.
    3. Dry cider – nice balance, clean no funk, slightly less fruit flavor than you’d want, but an encouraging first attempt worth a mention.

31 wines, from 19 wineries that made it into the higher 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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