Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Here's another report from my 3-night back-to-back Georgian wine tasting. This time it's about Khvanchkara—a natural semisweet wine from Northwest Georgia.
🍇 Alexandrouli, Mudzhuretuli 📅 2019 🌎 Northwest Georgia, Racha, Khavnchkara PDO ⭐ Vivino 4.3
Khavnchkara is the name of the village in the historical region of Racha in Northwest Georgia on the right bank of Rioni river. Today, Khvanchkara is one of 24 Georgia's Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) that includes 27 villages, mostly on the right bank of Rioni river.
Historically Khvanchkara wine is associated with the Kipiani, a family of Georgian nobles that lived in Racha region, although at that time the wine was called by the name of the family—“Kipianevskoe” or Kipiani's wine. Different sources mention different members of the Kipiani clan as godfathers of the wine. According to one source, those were Konstantin and Kaikhosro Kipiani who started producing wine in the 70s of the 19th century based on the centuries-old local traditions of winemaking. Back then, the wine experts were comparing Kipianevskoe to Burgundy wines for it's velvety and delicate character. Later, it were Princes Dimitri and Luarsab (Levan, according to some sources) Kipiani who improved the technology of producing Kipianevskoe and made it popular beyond Georgia. The story goes that in 1907 Prince Dimitri Kipiani brought the wine to international wine competition in Ostend, Belgium, where it won the Grand Prix and a special award from the Belgian King Leopold II.
When Georgia was taken over by the Bolsheviks in 1921, the tradition of producing Kipianevskoe was maintained but in 1932 the name was changed to what we know it by today—Khvanchkara. The story goes that Kipianevskoe was one of Joseph Stalin's favourite wines (although some sources say this isn't true) but he couldn't bear with the fact that it was called by the name of class enemies of the Bolsheviks. Later, in 1950, in line with the strategy of making Georgian wines more popular among the Soviet consumers (read more about it in one of my previous posts: https://bit.ly/3jIiMJa), the wine's name was changed to "Georgian Wine No. 20" but in 1953 after Stalin's death, Khvanchkara name was returned to it.
Khvanchkara is a blend of two indigenous Georgian grape varieties—Alexandrouli and Mudzhuretuli, usually blended in 50-50% proportion but it appears there's no strict regulations for it and in certain cases it may be a monovarietal wine produced from Alexandrouli alone.
The primary aromas of the blend are strawberry, dried fruits, raspberry and roasted almonds. Alexandrouli and Mudzhuretuli are produced in small quantities only in Khvanchkara PDO and attempts to cultivate those two varieties elsewhere failed. Interestingly, oftentimes both varieties grow mixed in the same vineyards. Khavnchkara is a natural semisweet wine, which means no extra sugar is added to it. Alexandrouli is a variety with naturally high sugar content—27%. Due to climatic conditions in Khvanchkara, yeast go into dormant state, which usually happens at a temperature below 5 ℃, fairly early, the fermentation stops and the level of sugar in wine is preserved at 3-5%.
This bottle of 2019 Schuchmann Khavnchkara available from Bublik.sg, comes from Schuchmann Wines. Ruby in colour, a full-bodied wine with medium+ tannins, medium acidity and medium sweetness, cherries and raspberry on the nose, citrusy notes in the aftertaste.
Uniqueness of Khavnchkara is that it's suitable for both contrasting and congruent pairing. On the contrasting pairing side it matches well traditional Georgian dishes, for instance kidney beans with Rachin ham. On the complementary side it pairs well with cheeses, fruits and desserts. In this instance it was paired with churchkhela, a traditional Georgian candle-shaped candy made of grape must and nuts.