Stalin’s top red wine tickles our palates
on 15/07/11 at 12:24 pmWine
IT was the favourite tipple of Joseph Stalin but Georgian-born winemaker Lado Uzunashvili is quick to distance himself from the Russian dictator, not to mention Russia itself, when it comes to discussing one of the world’s oldest grape varieties, saperavi.
Saperavi has been grown in the former Soviet republic of Georgia for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of grape cultivation can be traced to this part of the world; the very word “wine” is thought to have its roots in the Georgian term “gvino”.
Last week, Uzunashvili presented a tasting of saperavi at the Hugh Hamilton vineyard in McLaren Vale. Hamilton was one of the first vignerons to plant the grape in Australia after meeting the Georgian winemaker in the mid-1990s, and the two have remained friends.
While he is rightly proud of the variety and its viticultural history, Uzunashvili is, understandably, reluctant to talk about some aspects of the past.
“I don’t like to connect saperavi with Stalin,” he says. “And any talk of Georgia and Russia is entering a danger zone.”
Of the thousands of different grape varieties planted across the world, saperavi stands out for its dramatic character and unusual history.