Few regions have as rich a history with winemaking as Georgia, where the Caucasus tradition goes back to the Neolithic age, at least 8,000 years ago. The Eurasian country has emerged from the post-Soviet era as one of the international stars of wine fascination, for its historic use of clay kvevri jars for aging, but also for the red grape called saperavi, which suddenly has found favor even with New World winemakers in Pennsylvania and New York. But going back to the Old World source is easy, especially when heading up to Northeast Philly for a genuine Georgian feast. A few years ago, I wrote about some affordable bottles of saperavi (and the crisp Georgian white rkatsitelli) made by the popular Teliani Valley winery, which can be found for between $12 and $17 a bottle at the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store in the Hendrix Center (11685 Bustleton Ave.), the PLCB store closest to the epicenter of Russian Northeast Philly.
At fancier Premium Collection stores, you can find a slightly more upscale bottle of saperavi by Château Mukhrani that, at $21.99, is worth the extra few dollars. This dry red is no stone-age drink. It’s made in the contemporary European style, a rich ruby juice ripe with notes of blackberry, good acidity, and a relatively modest alcohol level (12.5 percent) that makes it versatile with food. It also has a spicy oak finish that pairs well with a platter of kebabs, meaty khinkali soup dumplings, game meats, and spicier dishes like beef ostri stew or rustic kharcho soup.
— Craig LaBan
Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi Kartli 2014, $21.99. PLCB Item #76134.