Chinuri Skin Contact 2015

Chinuri Skin Contact 2015

Iago Bitarishvili, Chinuri Skin Contact 2015, Kartli, Georgia, 13%

(£19.60 for the 2016 vintage, Les Caves de Pyrene)

If a recent trip to Georgia proved anything, it was the fact that no one single phrase neatly sums up the style of Georgian wine, whether white or red.

I’ll admit this makes life tricky for curious wine lovers keen to dip their toe in Georgian waters.

What is certain is that Georgia was one of, if not the first country where wine was made. Evidence exists in the form of pips from cultivated (as opposed to wild) vines as well as pieces of amphorae in which wine is believed to have been fermented and stored.

In today’s post-Soviet Georgia those ancient wine-making traditions of fermenting and ageing wines on the skins for long periods in ‘Qvevri’ (clay amphorae, often buried underground) are being revived and refined by winemakers the country over. At the other end of the spectrum are wines made in a more recognisably international style.

And there is everything in between.

Georgia’s most famous red grape is Saperavi. Roughly translated, the name means ‘to add ink’ – and the wines tend to be deeply coloured and bold.

Less well-known is Aladasturi, which I’d love to see more of. At best it produces light, sappy, almost Pinot Noir-like wines that are food-friendly and wonderfully drinkable.

Iago Bitarishvili’s focus is, however, on Georgian white wine.

He makes just two, both from the Chinuri variety, one with skin contact and one without. As a pioneer of the qvevri revival and a disarmingly quiet, meticulous man, his organic skin contact Chinuri is the perfect way to begin your Georgian odyssey.

From its golden colour to its resinous minerality and pithy texture, it is full of the unique characteristics to be found in the best of Georgia’s qvevri whites.

Soft acidity underpins intense flavours of lemon and apricot, while the finish is clean and refreshing.

(8/10, Susie, Sept 2018)