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Posted: Tuesday, 27 February 2018 18:00

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Australian Judged World’s Best Foreign Saperavi

Feb 27: Cirami Estate 2015 Saperavi from Australia, McGregor Vineyard’s Black Russian Red 2010 Saperavi from the United States and Lagyl Arba Saperavi 2013 from Kazakhstan have been chosen as the 3 top Saperavi wines at the first annual Saperavi (SapPrize) World Prize held on February 15 in Tbilisi, which recognised the best Saperavi wines made abroad, writes Subhash Arora who rues that despite his efforts, this indigenous wine from Georgia could not succeed in India so far

“The winning wine from Cirami Estate is produced not by a winery but by a non-profit organisation called the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee,” says Alexander Kaffka, the head of the SapPrize Committee and the founder of Hvino News, the primary organiser of the Award. The wine is named after Richard Cirami, a pioneer in vine selection in Australia.

“We are honoured to receive such recognition,” says John McGregor representing the second best winery, winning Grand Silver Award,  who first grew the Georgian signature grape in the 1980’s.  “We planted these grapes in 1980 and were the first commercial Saperavi producers in the United States.  It is wonderful to see confirmation of my father’s belief that Saperavi could grow here in New York and make world class wines.”

“It is really wonderful that there is now a special event for Saperavi, a grape so strongly associated with Georgia and its wines,” says Gerard Basset MW, MS and a past world champion sommelier. “I would like to wish great success to this very exciting event,” he said.

“A Saperavi World Prize sounds like a very exciting initiative and should certainly help raise awareness for Georgia’s iconic red grape variety,” says Rosemary George MW from UK, who has authored many books on the subject. “I had no idea that there were plantings of Saperavi in Australia and the US,” she says reportedly.

“The concept of the SapPrize is to reach out to winemakers worldwide, who produce wines from the iconic Georgian Saperavi,” says Kaffka. “After lots of research and networking, we got samples from four continents; Australia, North America, Asia and Europe, including remote countries such as New Zealand, as well as former Soviet neighbours including Armenia or Kazakhstan which won the Grand Bronze. At the first contest we decided that only foreign Saperavi wines take part, but in future we will welcome Georgian producers as well,” he adds. This was already reported earlier by delWine.

As announced by delWine last July, all winners received ‘Azarpeshas’ — Georgian traditional wine drinking vessels. An exhibition of rare ancient Azarpeshas from private collections, which were the inspiration behind the creation of the SapPrize awards, was also presented during the awards ceremony.

Delhi Wine Club and the Indian Wine Academy made since efforts to promote Saperavi which was then available in Delhi at affordable price and even recommended it to its readers in delWine in 2012, with the comments, ‘it is difficult to find interesting, unique and tasty wines in the sub-thousand rupee range in Retail. Saperavi Red wine from Tbilvino winery in Georgia is an ideal exception. The wine costing between Rs. 800-1000 is an award winning wine from a recognized Georgian producer and is ideal for kebabs and pizzas, meaty snacks and a few vegetarian foods as well.’

I had discovered Saperavi over 6 years ago while judging at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Competition in November 2011. I came across wines with these grapes when most people in my panel of which I was the President had not tasted or even heard of these varietals before. But the wines had enough personality and vivaciousness to win a few awards. That’s when I realized that Georgia makes some very good Saperavi wines besides being the oldest wine producing region in the world.

During the recently concluded Mundusvini2018 Spring Edition in Germany where I was also one of the international judges, our panel was given a flight of Saperavi wines to judge. Of course at the time of judging we are not told which country it was from but most of us presumed correctly that it was from Georgia; most members did not even know other countries grow this grape. The results of the competition being announced today would surely indicate a significant number of these wines winning Gold and Silver medals..

As reported earlier, this competition was open to only foreign winemakers but next year they will include the local producers too, hopefully.  Perhaps, the organisers were worried that the participants from other countries might be overawed by the presence of local producers who have been using the local grape variety for centuries. Next year’s SapPrize might show us how much countries like Australia and USA have improved their quality of Saperavi over the years.

Meanwhile, due to the lack of knowledge and proper information, Saperavi had to trace back its step in the Indian market and would have to wait for another chance to re-enter the market.

Subhash Arora


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