We complain every year that Valentine’s Day has lost all meaning and pertinence. That it has become too mainstream, too commercial. A “Hallmark Holiday.”
Determined not to fall into the all too easy trap of suggesting Champagne and the like as the perfect V Day gift, I was looking for something different. It was at La Dive Bouteille last week that I got talking to John Wurdeman from the Pheasant’s Tears winery in Georgia.
He told me about a very rare grape variety, found almost exclusively in the Kakheti region in the east of Georgia, called Kisi. (Pronounced much as your grandmother might have said “give us a kissy, dear” at family gatherings right before remarking upon how you’ve grown…)
It’s a grape which thrives in a low-to-moderate climate at high altitude. The cinnamonic soil (iron heavy, thick clay) found in this region forces the vines’ roots to dig deep. Despite this, or maybe because of it, the yield is typically very low.
When made into wine, the indigenous Kisi grape will typically offer aromas of rich tropical fruits (pineapple), almond shells and ripe yellow plums. There might be some honeysuckle and beeswax present too, but the resulting wine is often bone dry. Other people (see video below) get “musk and girl sweat.” (N.B. I am trying to stick to a Valentine’s Day theme!)
Very few winemakers seem to make a single-varietal wine from Kisi but there are a couple. The reference point is the Vinoterra Kisi 2006. Fermented and matured for five months in qvevri and matured for a further twelve in oak barrels, it’s a beautiful complex, exotic ‘orange’ wine.
The other wine that I tried was the (skin contact) Pheasant’s Tears Kisi 2011 – a powerful punch of sweet stone fruit at first, evolving into a full mouthful of rich, spicy dry hay. To hear John and the gang of #winelovers talking about it, check out the video below.
(jump to 0.55)