Monday, April 23, 2012

Perfect Pair: Georgian Wines Presented at Agora

Capital Cooking Contributor 

When someone asks you what country wine originated from, chances are, you're thinking somewhere in Western Europe. But in reality, the world's oldest wine producer is Georgia. Archaeological digs trace it all the way back to the Stone Age. Clay amphoras, 8,000 years of age, would be filled with grapes and buried into the ground until wine was produced.

Recently, Agora hosted a dinner to help show how great Georgian wine can be. Guests tasted four wines, three of which were produced by Château Mukhrani, located in the east part of the country, which makes up 70% of total wine production. With rich soil and good climate in a largely mountainous region, Georgia is able to produce over 500 grape varieties. And Mukhrani takes it a step further with all selectively hand picked grapes in an organic environment. The result is a thoughtful, quality product.

The first wine guests tasted was a 2009 Goruli Mtsvane, a golden colored, fruity, crisp, dry white. With notes of green pepper, a staple of Georgian wines, it gives way to melon flavors and minerality in the long finish. Agora paired this wine with a shellfish soup that include shrimp, scallop and mussel. The refreshing nature of this wine goes well with light seafood and could also be paired with poultry.
The second course of the Agora-Château Mukhrani dinner: branzino and a dry rosé. 
For the second course, a 2010 Tavkveri dry rosé. A lovely grilled Mediterranean branzino was served atop crispy olive oil bread. Lemon added a welcome citrus note to the tender filet. The lightness of the fish called for a light wine, and this rosé did very well. A very limited production wine, this bright pink wine is juicy with strawberry, cranberry, raspberry and cherry flavors. Stainless steel aids in keeping the tavkveri young, crisp and vibrant. In addition to fish, it will also pair well with white meats.

The main course was a petit filet topped with mushrooms in a tarragon red wine reduction. The meat, paired with earthy mushrooms, went well with an inky dark red 2007 Saperavi/Cabernet-Sauvignon blend. The dark cherry tone and balanced tannins, mixed with a touch of spice, went perfectly. The wine is aged for at least four years with a minimum of one year in oak, giving it a soft, velvety texture. This Saperavi is best served with red meats, including those fried, grilled and stewed. Decanting it for about 30 minutes will help aerate the "tightness" and give the perfect compliment to your dinner.

The third course of the night: petit filet mignon with mushrooms and a side of zucchini.
For the dessert course, guests enjoyed a chocolate torte with raspberry coulis. The dark, creamy chocolate called for a red wine to balance it out, and the raspberry added a rich, sweet component. Eniseli Wines produced the last tasting of a 2007 Kindzmarauli, a 100% Saperavi naturally semi-sweet red. Produced in the Eastern-most region of Georgia, this dark wine offers dark red and black fruit qualities with a spice finish. Along with chocolate and berries, it will also pair well with spicy food and meats. It was a great finish to the meal.

Knowing that 95% of grapes grown in the country are native, a Georgian wine purchase will give you something unique for your collection. Quality-controlled wine ensures a great product. And for those unfamiliar, the $12-15 price point per bottle gives little excuse not to try something new.

So next time you're shopping for a bottle you haven't tried yet, look beyond the classic French or full-bodied red from South America, and give Georgian wines a try. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

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