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Details for Badagoni Mtsvane


CountryGeorgia
Region
Grape
Year2015
Producer
ABV13.5%


Kakheti

Kakheti is by far the most important of Georgia's eight wine regions, home to more than two-thirds of the nation’s vineyards.  Because almost all the big wineries are based there, it produces 80% of Georgia’s wine.  But these official figures are misleading, because they only reflect commercial production.
 
Most Georgian wine is made and drunk at home.  In the countryside almost every family has a row or two of vines from which they make their own wine.  Few of these private vineyards are counted in the official figures, and none of the home production.  Even in the cities, where most live in Soviet-era highrise blocks, people make their own wine on their balconies and in the communal basements.  Probably less than a tenth of Georgian wine gets bottled and sold commercially.
 
So Kakheti’s apparent dominance is in many ways an illusion; it just happens to be where all the export-oriented wineries are.  That said, their wines are the only ones non-Georgians have the opportunity to try!
 
Kakheti itself lies at Georgia’s eastern end, along the valley of the Alazani River which flows south-east to north-west paralleling the mighty Caucasus mountain range to the north (the border with Russia).  Being far from the moderating influence of the Black Sea the climate is quite continental, with average temperatures close to freezing in January and around 25°C in July with 30°C days common.  There’s reasonable amounts of rainfall year-round, peaking in May/June.  It’s quite similar to inland southern France, though with hotter summers and colder winters, and eminently suitable for fine wine provided the varieties grown are sufficiently frost-hardy.


Badagoni

Badagoni winery is named after a pagan goddess of winemaking and fertility in pre-Christian Georgia.  Badagoni doesn’t just predate Christ; she predates Dionysus and Bacchus.  A tiny statue of her, now in Geogia’s National Museum, is around 8000 years old.  Georgians have been growing grapes and making wine for at least that long.
 
Founded in 2002 in the Kakhetian village of Zemo Khodasheni, the company was initially known as Knight of Winemaking and was something of a hobby project for its founders, who all had day jobs in other industries.  The name change happened in 2006, when they recruited famed Italian oenologist Donato Lanati, constructed a new, state-of-the-art winery, and embarked upon a major expansion drive.  Today they’re the largest exporter of Georgian wine.
 
Along the way they formed a partnership with the monks of historic Alaverdi Monastery to reconstruct the monastery’s huge 11th Century wine cellar and its 40 qvevris.  Their Alaverdi Tradition red and white are made there (the latter in qvevri), and have achieved international acclaim.  The red featured on Decanter magazine’s list of the top 100 wines they tasted in 2012.
 
Today Badagoni have almost 400 hectares of vineyards spread across eight villages in Khaketi.  They produce around four million bottles a year which are almost all exported, largely to Russia, Ukraine and other ex-USSR states, but also to the USA and China.  Their extensive range covers all four colours (including orange) and a variety of sweetness levels, including the traditional semi-sweet reds popular in the old Soviet Union.  They also offer a wide selection of sparkling wines.  All are made entirely from local grape varieties.

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Badagoni’s website mysteriously doesn’t mention this wine, even though it has been produced since at least the 2009 vintage.   They do list several dry whites made from the Mtsvane grape and sold under village names, but all of them are lower in alcohol than this one.  So I’ve had to make some educated guesses as to how it was produced!
 
The UK importer’s website says it comes from Kartli region, considerably to the west of Kakheti, raising the possibility that it’s made from an entirely different grape, Goruli Mtsvane.  Georgia has half a dozen varieties with Mtsvane in their name, because the word means ‘green’.  Goruli Mtsvane originated near Gori in Kartli, and is the more important Mtsvane there.
 
Fortunately the back label makes it quite clear that this is a “Kakhetian dry white” made from “Kakhetian Mtsvane”.  Mtsvane Kakhuri, to give the grape its official title, means Green from Kakheti.  It’s by far the most widespread Mtsvane in Georgia, to the point where the Kakhuri is usually omitted from labels, as here.
 
Not bearing a village name, it’s almost certainly a blend from several villages in Kakheti (Badagoni have vineyards in eight different villages).  The high alcohol level compared to their single-village wines does suggest that it was late-picked from favoured sites, and is also a reflection of the warm 2015 vintage which was good in Georgia as in most of Europe.
 
It wasn’t made in a qvevri, but then qvevri whites are an acquired taste: so-called ‘orange’ wines, dark and tannic from being fermented on the skins like a red.  This pale wine has been fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel with cultured yeasts like Badagoni’s other non-qvevri Mtsvane whites, under strict anaerobic conditions to counteract this variety’s tendency to oxidise.
 
It is unoaked, so has been aged in tank rather than barrel.  But for an unusually long time: the back label gives the bottling date, 18th June 2017, so this 2015 spent almost two years in tank.  Having tasted it, I believe that much of that time was spent in contact with the lees, the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation.


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