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Does Georgia have 27 varieties of wine grapes or 540?

In a recent Facebook post in the Wine and Spirits Bloggers Group, I mentioned that the country Georgia has 540 grape varieties. That number was quickly challenged, citing Wine Grapes that puts the number at 27. Wine Grapes is a wonderful book by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. Wine enthusiasts should consider this book for their library. Kathy and I purchased our copy through Amazon since it was about 50% less than other sellers. The long title of the book is Wine Grapes A Complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours. The word complete is a bit misleading since the book mentions that there are nearly 10,000 grape varieties and they included only 1,368. Even with that number of grape varieties mentioned, the book is 2 ¾ inches (50 mm) thick.

Reading the Preface on page VIII the reader discovers that the number of grapes selected for the book was an attempt to keep the book manageable and limit the number of varieties to those that are used to make commercial wine. It is acknowledged that there are wines made from grape varieties not in this book. People are encouraged to suggest varieties for subsequent editions and provides an email address contact@winegrapes.org.

Vineyard library at Kindzmarauli Marani in Kvareli, Kakheti

Where does my number 540 come from? While traveling in Georgia during September, this number was mentioned several times. We visited two wineries in Kekheti that had a vineyard library next to the production facility. Shumi Winery in Tsinandali, Kekheti has a vineyard library of 300 different grapes grown in Georgia. Kindzmarauli Marani in Kvareli, Kakheti has a vineyard library of 400 of the wine grapes grown in Georgia with plans to add 100 additional varieties to their library. Of the 540 grapes grown in Georgia, less than 100 are used to make wines commercially. We did have a wine from Pheasant’s Tears in Signagi, Kakheti that was a blend of 80 varieties. Tibaani 2012 was named for the vineyard. The color was amber with an orange hue. The aroma, with floral notes, was reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers. The taste offered notes of roses and daisies. The finish had bold chewy tannins.

Many of the varieties of grapes in Georgia are near extinction. Some have been preserved by families that had plantings of the grapes in their backyard. Research is conducted as to which of these varieties can be used for commercial wine production. Several show promise.

Wine Grapes is a wonderful resource, however it does not mention every grape grown in a country. Interested winemakers who make a commercial wine out of a variety not mentioned in the book are encouraged to send a note to the email mentioned above. Perhaps the grape will be written about in the next edition.


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