Grab & Go Pairing –Georgian Meat Pies and White Wine
Not the state, the country.
I decided to see do some shopping at my local Eastern European grocer, Vine Ripe, to see what Georgian foods and wines were available. The goal was to find a pairing that could easily be replicated. I wanted a wine that has been produced to reach the masses. But the more I researched, the more I realized I couldn't just post a pairing without talking about the gravity of Georgian wine.
Many people credit the Greeks, Egyptians, or French for what we know as modern day wine, but it started much further east in the Caucasus Mountains bordering Asia. The pin-pointed epicenter for wine production, as we know it, is in the Republic of Georgia. Ruins of wineries as old as 7th Century BC have been discovered in the borders of this magnificent country, and the technology did not stay put. Armania, Iran, Azerbaijan, and even across the Black Sea in land-locked Moldova... All of these countries have made a shockingly significant impact on how wine is produced today. But if you ask anyone to name a wine from Eastern Europe, the answer is "Where?"
Map courtesy of Wine Foll
What can I expect from a Georgian Wine?
Depending on the region, the Reds very from medium bodied and mildly sweet, to robust, dry, earthy, floral things. The Whites and Rosés being exported to the US seem to be consistently drier in my experience. Many producers have been making adjustments in their winemaking to address consumers' preference for drier wines. The really cheap stuff has been all over the place as far as quality and consistency, and a few were tainted by volatile acid and brettanomyces from what I assume was unclean equipment, or the sketchy process of "open air" winemaking. If shopping for some inexpensive Georgian wines, I would keep above the $12 range, unless recommended otherwise.
The most impressionable have been Orange wines, which are essentially white wines made like reds (fermented on its skins for far longer than normal whites, or on par with rosés). Some wines can be quite austere, but overall very pleasant. The other style found in the cooler regions of Georgia are Ancestral Method Sparkling, where the second dose of yeast is not disgorged, and the lees is left to dissolve in the wine. These sparkling wines can resemble a yeasty character similar to sour beers at times, and I mean that in a good way! The best tend to run $18-$40, but I haven't seen any that were cripplingly expensive. These tend to be harder to find, and usually take a visit to your more eclectic wine specialty stores.
The wine I picked – Teliani Valley (Dry White) Tsinandali
This wine is from a producer named after the Teliani Valley it's grown in. It's a blend of indigenous white grapes from an AOC called Tsinandali on the Eastern side of the country. The backbone of the blend was 80% Rkatsiteli (rah-kats-see-te-lee), which means "red stem" in the local dialect, and it makes up 1/2 of the regions vines. I would relate this grape it to Chardonnay. The other 20% is Mtsvane (mahts-vah-nay) which is named after a specific shade of green and contributes a balance of fruity and floral notes.
Stylistically, it's as if someone crossed an Alsacian Pinot Gris with an Eden Valley Viognier. Rich body, golden apple and pear, créme friache mid palate, but the finish has some solid acidity for such oxidative flavors. I noticed a little malolactic fermentation and bit of skin contact, but I would never consider this wine “buttery”, nor phenolic. It was remarkably complexed for a $13 wine, and it pleased the noobies I've poured it for just as much as it did the wine professionals.
The food I picked
For a total of $8 I bought a beef and onion egg roll, a chicken and mushroom hand pie, and a rice-carrot-lentil and veggie pie as well. All were cooked and sitting under a heat lamp, so I wasn't expecting the pop of fresh ingredients, but as far as easy drive-by lunches go, I would take this over fast food any day. The beef was a little dry, and the pastry dough on the chicken -shroom pie was a little soft, but a split second in the broiler fixed that right up.
Georgian Hand Pies and Tsinandali wine. (The Basil and Thyme garnish was from my own potted herbs)
Lunch for two for $21-ish USD, including wine, I thought was very much worth it. The wine went very well with the dill, onion powder, paprika, and rosemary seasonings; plus, the richer body and texture, and fresh acidity made it stand up to the meats nicely. Overall, the experience was lovely, easy, and not very pricey. Let me know what you think in the comments, and maybe tell us about your Georgian food or wine experience. And don't forget to share!
Thank you for the privilege of your time!
- The Angry Somm