Search for Georgia online and you'll find far more references to the American state than to the country. Many oenophiles aren't even aware that wine is made in Georgia (the country, not the state) but, for experts, it's an exciting region that is well worth exploring.
Georgia is said to be one of the world's oldest wine regions, having been producing for 8,000 years. Dr Eko Glonti, of the Lagvinari winery, in eastern Georgia, says, "Georgians do not make wine. They give birth to the wine. A wine is like a person. It is born, lives and dies."
Through their ancient winemaking methods, Georgian producers offer a taste of history. Wines are made by crushing the grapes and fermenting the liquid, skins, pips and stalks in beeswax-lined clay pots called qvevri, which range from 400 to 2,000 litres in capacity and, when full, are buried in the ground. Fermentation starts naturally. The wine is aged in the sealed qvevri for between a few weeks and six months. White wines are then bottled while reds may be racked and undergo further ageing in oak barrels.
White wines made using qvevri undergo an entire change in character. Their colour deepens to a golden hue, which is why they are known as amber wines. On the nose, they may have honey, apricot and dried orange peel notes. Their palate is surprisingly powerful and full - these are wines that benefit from time and conversation. Firm tannins make them ideal food wines that will pair well with white meat.
The most popular white variety, accounting for more than 40 per cent of vineyard plantings, is rkatsiteli, meaning "red stem". Though native to Kakheti, in eastern Georgia, the grape is also cultivated in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. The variety is known for its resilience to common vine disease and frost. It has high acidity and its flavours are discreet and reminiscent of citrus and apple, with mineral notes.
Kisi, another local white variety, has come back from near extinction and plantings are slowly increasing. It is a fickle grape and susceptible to vine disease. It's made using conventional winemaking methods and its flavours are floral, pear and citrus.
Badagoni Kakhetian Noble 2010
Based in the eastern region of Kakheti, Badagoni is one of Georgia's largest wine producers. The Kakhetian Noble is made from the rkatsiteli grape. Citrus, honey, creamy notes. Full-bodied with high fruit intensity. Balanced acidity, creamy and long on finish. HK$248
Pheasant's Tears Rkatsiteli 2010
Winemaker Gela Patalishvili's family has been making wine for more than eight generations. Patalishvili's goal is to preserve traditional winemaking methods and all of his wines are fermented and aged in qvevri. Mature notes of iodine, soy sauce, dried nuts, tea leaves and apricots. Full-bodied and finishing fairly long. A mature wine that is perfect for current drinking. HK$300
Vinoterra Kisi Kakheti 2011
Vinoterra was founded by the Schuchmann family, from Germany, in 2008. All of its wines are made using the qvevri. This amber wine has notes of dried apricot and kumquat. Medium body, very complex dried fruit, crisp acidity and underlying firm tannins. HK$325
Wines are available from ghvino.com.hk.