(March 2016) After about a 50 minute drive from the Kartli wine region, we arrived back in Tbilisi to visit the famous Bagrationi Cellars, known for their sparkling wine production. Established in 1882 by Georgian Prince Ivane Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, today they produce around 2 million bottles of sparkling wine made in the traditional method of secondary fermentation in bottle. In addition, they also produce 1.5 million bottles of Charmant.
During the Soviet era, the winery was taken over as a Soviet project and produced millions of cases of sparkling. Indeed the winery cellars are massive, with many empty tanks and sections. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the winery was languished for a while until acquired in 2006. Now they are trying to bring it back to its previous glory.
After entering the impressive lobby, which looked like a palace, and climbing the curving horse-shoe shaped stairway lit by chandeliers, we were each handed a glass of sparkling wine when we reached the top. The CEO welcomed us, speaking through interpreters. He guided us through a tasting of four sparkling wines made with traditional varietals, and reasonably priced at below $10US.
|Tasting at Barationi Sparkling Wine Cellars With CEO|
My favorite was the 2013 Bagrationi Rose Brut, made from the red Georgian grape called Tavkveri (the hammerhead grape). Made in the traditional method, it had a soft berry nose, a creamy palate with delicate mousse, and a crisp acid and refreshing finish.
|My Favorite was the Rose Brut Made From the Tavkveri Grape|
After the tasting, we were escorted on a tour of the massive cellar, with so many empty tanks and rooms. It was a little bit depressing, and also startling to see how huge it had been as an operation under Soviet rule. The last room we visited was where they still have two old women who do hand-riddling – several thousand bottles per day. For the rest of the production, they use gyro-palates for riddling, with an average of 19 months again in bottle and one month riddling before disgorge. The charmat wines are, of course, made in tank. When I asked about wine tourists, they said they only receive around 2000 visitors per year.
|Massive Tanks in Cellar of Bagrationi|
After the tour, we sat down to the largest supra dinner we had encountered yet. It was truly a grand affair with multiple courses, including several small “complete” roasted pigs. Numerous bottles of exquisite, unusual, and expensive wines decorated the table, including what I was told was Stalin’s favorite, called Khvanchkara, a slightly sweet red from the Racha region. A truly amazing dinner that I’m sure added at least two pounds to all of us.
|Table Set for Supra Wine Dinner at Bagrationi Cellars in Tbilisi, Georgia|
|Roast Pig Served at Supra Dinner|
|Delicious Food and Wine at Supra Dinner|