Grape Guide: Saperavi
Saperavi is Georgia's top grape variety. Its thick red skins and ability to produce wines of structure and complexity that are capable of improving with age has helped to build a great deal of excitement about the Saperavi grape and the coming years will undoubtedly see further acclaim and attention on it.
As a very old variety, it is grown throughout Georgia; some statistics suggest that it covers 10% of all plantings. Regardless, it finds a natural home in Kakheti and in particular the region's designated appellations of Napareuli, Mukuzani and Kindzmarauli.
One of the most exciting things about Saperavi is that it appears to be more sensitive to the conditions of its vineyards than other varieties. This flexibility has lead to far more focus and attention on it than any other Georgian grape.
The wine world is still at the beginning of its enthusiasm for the grape though and studies are taking place on an ongoing basis to learn more. We already know that there are plenty of different clones in circulation and to some extent this may well explain the results that various geographical circumstances seem to inflict on the wine.
Regardless though, Saperavi is experiencing a period of commerical success. Production flexibility asside, it is the variety's affinity with oak that has won the hearts of enthusiasts and allowed the grape to emerge as the region's most serious red wine making grape. It is also a variety that appeals in its basic fruity form. Even as mono varietal wine, its natural fruit character allows it to be appreciated just a year from the vintage.
The final cherry on top is the relative ease in which it can be pronounced and rememebred by international consumers. Sounds daft, but try asking for a bottle of Chkhaveri.
In Akashani, an area perhaps commonly associated with the appellation's locally iconic semi sweet red, there is still a healthy number of old vine plantings that tend to give more complex wines with plenty of potential to age well.
Saperavi at its best gives inky wines with plenty of dark berry fruit flavours, lots of notes of licorice and savoury grilled meats, and usuallt with a complex aromas of tobacco, chocolate and spice.