Monday, December 18, 2017

A Hero of Our Time with 'Orange Wine'

This is the book that single handedly changed all my prejudices about classic Russian literature. Before I read this (because it was short and I thought I'd have one last crack at trying to appreciate something Russian) everything I'd ever looked at seemed both impossibly long and desperately depressing.

Mikhail Lermontov's masterpiece is not to long, and whilst it's not notably cheerful, there are flashes of humour in it which balance the inevitably gloomy outcome. There's also a few mentions of food - which I particularly noticed because I was reading it at the same time as Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford's 'Samarkand' came out. The first section of 'A Hero of Our Time' is also set in the Caucasus so there was a sense of serendipity as the two came together.

Georgian wine is both legendary, and yet something of a well kept secret in the U.K (it is probably less of a secret in London). It's one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world, and what wines they are. Waitrose lists one red online which is excellent (I mean seriously excellent and well worth the price tag), Marks and Spencer's sells at least one Orange wine (Tbilvino Qvevris) which can be found in larger branches,p. For more choice this is the information that Georgian Wine U.K Has.

I've chosen the Tbilvino both because it's the easiest to get hold of (at least I can buy it locally, although judging by the dust on the bottles I picked up in M&S not many others are) and because of it's now almost unique method of production. This is an amphora wine. The grapes, skins and all, are fermented in large clay amphora which are buried in the ground. This is what gives them their unique orange colour, and style.

This one has notes of quince and Apple, is a richly impressive wine, and very good with tagine - I think it would also stand up to Maxim Maximych's pheasant recipe too.

Finding wines like this are what makes my job exciting. It's the variety of wine, and the never ending chances to learn something new, which make it such a fascinating rabbit hole to tumble into. It's much easier to write about spirits where there is less temptation to give over completely to hyperbole,  or to come up with something which reads like very bad teenage poetry. Maybe it's because spirits, once bottled, are static things, whereas wine continues to develop in the bottle - it's a living thing, and when the opportunity comes along to combine wine, food, and beloved books (favourite things right there)... Well it is exciting, because each element brings a bit more context to the others, and each becomes more memorable.


  1. The Orange wine trend is HUGE here in Oz (and amphora wine is growing rapidly too). Not a style I enjoy, I'm afraid, though the history is so very interesting. A wine with a lot of 'personality'.

  2. I really, really, want to go to Oz to explore what's going on wine wise. What comes over here is such a small part of the picture. It's certainly a different style, I love the history and the novelty, and enjoy it with food - perhaps not so much on its own. I like it far more than the sulphur free wine I've tried...