The Dark Horse: Saperavi


Saperavi is Georgia’s most widely-planted grape variety and yet you may not never have heard of it.

It is an intensely coloured grape. Indeed, its name literally means “paint” or “dye.” Interestingly, it’s one of the very few varietals to have the red colour piment anthocyanin found in the flesh as well as the skin. I also speak from experience when I say that this gives the final wine an unsurpassable ability to colour your teeth… but, having made that discovery in March, this year’s Hallowe’en disguise was a breeze!

It’s also a very hardy vine, able to withstand harsh temperatures, extreme altitudes and fairly rudimentary winemaking. Georgia is the trendy buzz-word of the moment, but I’ve had some good (although slightly sweet) Saperavi from Ukraine, Moldova and other former states of the USSR.

Typically you find notes of plenty of black fruit, cassis, plum and liquorice. Aged versions can start to display more a coffee and tobacco character, possibly even a little soy sauce.

It can be very tannic (depending on the method of vinification) but it is balanced by a relatively high acidity. Makes interesting single varietal and plays well in small quantities in blends.

Suggested food pairings : pork shashlik, spicy beef dishes or even a gourmet cheeseburger.


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