“What is this?” I asked, totally confused. It was a white wine. The colour was like amber, but most surprising, there were loads of tannins. I had never tasted anything like it before.
It was something totally new. And not just something interesting. I liked the wine. The nice amber colour, almost a hint of salmon pink, not quite clear. The nose, a tone of medicine and so much smoke. It could have been a tough single-malt. The dry, concentrated palate. Medium-bodied, good acidity, and all those tannins together with a touch of oxidisation, just as from a forgotten, half-eaten apple or a sherry. Good length with sweet smokiness.
There was no guess and Jennifer dropped the answer. “I thought you’d like to try and not just read about it. You talk about history. This wine is history.”
It was from Georgia. Made traditionally in qvevri. Qvevri, a large amphora, 2000-4000 litres, made of clay and lined with beeswax. Then buried in the soil, giving a natural temperature control. A method known for 8000 years.
The grape was Mtsvane, organically grown and then fermented with natural yeast. The grape skins and some fine stems included in the fermentation and then retained in the qvevri during the storage period of some months. No filtration.
So this was the explanation to the tannins. And to the colour. Amber I say, but some see it as orange. Hence the term orange wines.
My first orange encounter was the Pheasant’s Tears Mtsvane 2009. I hope for many more encounters along this path. A new dimension to be explored.