A wave of Georgian qvevri wine in Amsterdam

I’m a huge fan of Georgian qvevri wines – that’s to say, wines made in the 8,000 year old traditional manner, where grapes, skins and sometimes stems are piled into a 500 – 2,000 litre clay amphora-like vessel, buried up to its neck in the ground.

The challenge has always been how to get hold of them. A tiny amount is imported into the UK, even less to the Netherlands where I currently reside. And what little there is often ends up languishing on restaurant lists, as it’s mostly too pricey to be easily sold in shops.
But times are changing, awareness of the wines seems to be increasing (admitedly from a very low base), and one adventurous Dutch wine merchant “Andere Wijn” has hugely expanded their Georgian range.

Damijan Podversic – realising a dream

Damijan Podversic’s decision in 1999 to reject his conventional winemaking education, in favour of a more “back to the roots” style, did not sit well with his dad who denied him usage of the family’s ancestral cellar. Since then he’s developed an impressive and tradition style of skin macerated white wines, following in the footsteps of Josko Gravner.

Muscat Ottonel, a love story

Sometimes the path of true love really does alter everything. When Austrian Martin Lichtenberger and Spaniard Adrianna Gonzalez met in 2007, during their winemaking studies in California, they might not have predicted that they’d soon be making wine together on another continent. Not to mention a skin contact Muscat Ottonel (an orange wine).

The dreaded Palomino – Daterra Viticultores

Tasting at a busy wine fair is hard. Where to go, what to taste? Did I miss something mindblowing amidst the crowds? A tall, rather statuesque lady with impressive dreadlocks grabs my attention. I offer my best/only Portuguese “Posso provar os vinhos brancos?”, she retaliates with a stream of Spanish. I catch the word “Galicia” and little else. The owner of the dreads is Laura Lorenzo, Daterra Viticultores, Galicia.

Barking at the moon: Movia – Lunar 2008

Aleš Kristančič is a man whose reputation precedes him. Movia, the family’s estate in Western Slovenia since 1820, has become one of the most well-known producers from the region, and also a trailblazer for the skin contact style.

Tbilvino’s Qvevris Rkatsiteli – big isn’t necessarily bad

Tbilvino is based in western Georgia’s Kakheti – the country’s most important wine region. A product of the modern age, Tbilvino was conceived in a post-communist world – their first commercial vintage was 1999. They’re pretty successful, producing around 3 million bottles a year, most of which are sold to Russia, other ex-soviet countries and China – well established markets for Georgian wine.

Since 2010, Tbilvino markets a small range of wines made in qvevri – currently a Rkatsiteli and a Saperavi, with a Kisi just about to be released. The “Qvevris” Rkatsiteli has made it onto the shelves of Marks and Spencer at the bargain price of £10, in an M&S branded guise.

Making orange wine in the Douro Valley – Part 1

It started with a seemingly innocent question from Oscar Quevedo: “Simon, do you know how to make an orange wine?”. Oscar isn’t stupid of course, he knew damn well I’d have something to say on the subject. We were sat in the tasting room at Quevedo, a port and still wine producer in the Cima Corgo […]

Tasting orange wines with Hugh Johnson

I’m not sure that I have heroes anymore – and those I once had were certainly not wine writers. That said, if I did, and if they were, Hugh Johnson OBE would be a candidate. Several of his books are on my shelf, and his writings have accompanied my entire journey into wine over the last 25 […]

“Orange wines are a sideshow and a waste of time”

“What’s the point of experimenting? We know how to make really good wine. Why do we want to throw away the formula and do something different?” Hugh Johnson, interviewed in the Washington Post, October 2016. Recently I’ve been wondering whether the whole arena of natural wines was becoming so mainstream, tolerated and understood that maybe there […]

Old Man of La Mancha – de Sol a Sol Airén 2011

Never mind the special six course foraged dinner “010 020 Het Wilde”, cooked by a crack team of chefs from Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The star of the show for me was de Sol a Sol – a thrilling, profound orange wine which transcends its seemingly extreme method of production – 403 days of skin contact!