GEORGIAN WINE – ALAZANI VALLEY
When people talk about Georgian wine, often the first name that comes to mind is Alazani Valley.Today we will tell you more about this wine, where and how it is produced and why Georgians themselves are not very fond of this brand.Is it interesting…?The Alazan Valley is the name of a wine region in Georgia, as you might have guessed. It stretches along the ridge of the Caucasus along the bed of the Alazani River, hence the name. Georgians also call this valley the Kakheti Valley. The mountainous landscape and mild climate have created ideal conditions for growing grapes here.
The grapes ripen well, gaining acidity, sweetness and everything they need.In total, more than 500 indigenous varieties grow here, and the most popular are rkatsiteli and mtsvane ojaleshi, saperavi, alexandrouli. The Alazan Valley wines themselves can be either white or red, but they are always blends. Rakatsiteli or Mtsvane is used as a base for the whites, Saperavi for the reds. In addition, grapes of other varieties are added. The wine is made according to Kakhetian technology, i.e. it is fermented in kvevri – huge clay pots buried in the ground.
Why don’t Georgians like and drink wine from the Alazani Valley?
Here, so far, it looks pretty good why Georgians don’t like, recognize and drink Alazani Valley wine.The thing is that the Alazani Valley brand itself is quite young, having been established in 1977. Georgian winemakers developed a recipe for a cheap georgian wine for the undemanding people of other USSR countries.For obvious reasons, they decided to produce a semi-sweet wine, as the consumer of the time was not ready for the more delicate and sour taste of dry Georgian wines.As a result, the cheap “Alazanka” took root on the shelves of Soviet shops and later spread after the collapse of the USSR. Exports of this wine grew especially in the 2000s. At that time, it was possible to buy a bottle of ‘Alazan Valley’ in Ukraine, for example, cheaper than local Ukrainian wine, and the quality, which was already very questionable, deteriorated even further. Ideally, semi-sweet wines from the Alazan Valley should contain residual sugar, which appears in the berries at late harvest. In reality, however, things are different. The technology has had to be cheapened by the use of ‘vacuum must’. It sounds a bit strange and scary, but it is in fact a natural method, albeit with some nuances. It is a type of sugar molasses, but grape molasses, obtained from the same or similar grape variety.
What is vacuum wort?
Imagine you are a winemaker and 2 tons of grapes arrive at your winery. You have sent the first tonne for pressing, made juice, fermented it, i.e. made wine from this tonne according to classic technology. However, the grapes were not of very high quality, so the sugar in them is not enough to make a normal semi-sweet wine. And that’s where the second tonne comes in. You’ve made juice from it, loaded it into a special machine that pours it into a thick, draught-looking state. That’s the vacuum of must. It’s simply added to wine to increase the sweetness – it’s the cheapest way to make semi-sweet wines. In most cases, this is what is used in Alazan Valley production. Especially in its cheap segment.As mentioned, there is nothing wrong with it, no chemistry, but the taste turns out to be simple and rather sweet. This is the main reason why Georgians themselves don’t like Alazan Valley much, they consider it pop. Georgians prefer to drink normal, quality, single varietal wines that are produced using classical technology, for example, the same technology as in Kakheti.
Alazani Valley wine problem.
Another problem with the Alazan Valley in post-Soviet countries is that too much of it is sold. Far more than the region is even able to produce. Of course, a lot of grapes are grown there, but still, there are not as many grapes on the market as are sold in the Alazan Valley, and that raises suspicions.
What is being sold to you and me under the guise of Alazani?
There may be different versions, it may turn out that there is only a Georgian wine label and under the pretext of Kakhetian wine they sell you some local schmuldichok. In general, if we are talking about the cheap segment, Alazan Valley is a lottery. You may come across a quite drinkable but simple wine, or a very dubious product that you will want to forget but fail to do so.I must say that there are Georgian producers who produce basically normal, quality, Alazan Valley. For example, such a winery called MARANI [MARANI]. It’s not an advertisement. it’s simply one of the winemakers that produces rich bouquet, normal balance of acidity and sweetness just in the Alazan Valley. Though I should add that if you taste this winery’s wines, you should taste not only Alazan Valley, but other types of Georgian wines as well. And maybe more for starters.