Monday, May 1, 2017

Georgian Wine, Lefroy Brooks, Taps & Showerheads

"Taps will disappear and we will be left holding remote controls or prodding steamy screens. Taps therefore as we know them today may have existed for only around a century and are perhaps destined like the horse and carriage to disappear into the mists of nostalgia. I have therefore taken on the task of researching this century of taps and selecting the great classics from each decade."
--Christo Lefroy Brooks

On the wall in the photo above are various faucets and showerheads while there is a toilet on the floor! What does any of that have to do with Georgian wine?

Lefroy Brooks produces a wide range of bathroom fixtures and they have a showroom in New York City, in the Chelsea neighborhood. They host a number of events as part of their LB Salon, including last week's Wine & Design Pairing. At this event, Adam Japko, the founder & CEO of Esteem Media as well as the author of WineZag, and I led a presentation on wine, design and Georgian wine. In addition, four Georgian wines were poured for the attendees and each wine was paired with a specific bathroom fixture from one of Lefroy Brook's collections.

Have you ever tried to pair a wine with a faucet or showerhead? It was lots of fun.

This is the calm before the storm, when there would be standing room only, as probably more than 75 design professionals attended the event. It was certainly one of the more unique venues that I've ever had a wine tasting event.

They were an engaged crowd, asking numerous questions during the presentation, and they had much praise for the wines.

Adam Japko began the presentation, explaining the connection between wine and design, a topic he has discussed at numerous other events. With his work in the design field and his intense love of wine, he has a unique perspective on those topics and was able to easily explicate his views to all of the guests. Adam is an excellent and engaging speaker and was well received at this event. He is also a great friend and it was quite fulfilling to collaborate with him on this event.

I then spoke, presenting information about Georgian wines, from its history to the use of qvevri, hoping to persuade the attendees that they should explore Georgian wines. On the same day of the event, I also posted an article, Ten Reasons To Drink Georgian Wine, explaining why everyone should seek out these worthy wines. The audience was very receptive, fascinated by this intriguing region as few had any experience with these wines. The audience asked numerous questions, and one of their initial questions was actually where they could purchase these wines. It doesn't get much more positive than that, and it was a success that we convinced people to seek out Georgian wines.

For me, I was very pleased with how open the design professionals were, willing for new experiences, ready to taste something very different. I've experienced this before at other wine & design events, making them a great forum to spread a passion for different wines. It reminds me of the joy of children, open to the wonders of the world, embracing the challenge of the new. They weren't jaded, people who have already tasted so much and have less enthusiasm when tasting something new. The attendees looked at these Georgian wines with open and receptive eyes and palates. For example, they marveled at the amber color of the qvevri wines, rather than reject them because of their strange color.

Presenting to this type of audience requires that you make the wines accessible to them. You can't rely on wine jargon or get too technical, too geeky. You need to provide them wine information in a readily understandable way, making it fun and not feeling like it's a school lesson. They want to hear more stories about the wines, rather than all about its technical specifications. Having slides, photographs of Georgia, its beautiful landscape, architecture, qvevri, and more were helpful as well, especially considering the aesthetic sense of these design professionals. This is all an excellent lesson for writing wine articles too, especially if you seek to reach average consumers. Accessibility needs to be a major consideration.

Based on their positive reactions, I believe Adam and I accomplished our goal, and there will certainly be a number of attendees who will now seek out Georgian wines. One man told us that the Georgian sparkling wine was the best Brut he'd ever tasted. Another attendee, who isn't much of a wine drinker, was especially surprised and enamored with the Saperavi. The qvevri white wines, with their distinctive "orange" color, were also a big hit, surprising many of the guests who'd never tasted such a wine. Overall, the evening was a great success.

And then we return to the idea of pairing bathroom fixtures with Georgian wine. Lefroy Brooks has created a line of bathroom fixtures which rely on historically-referenced design, trying to save these traditions. A significant portion of the Georgian wine industry is essentially doing the same, preserving ancient, traditional wine making techniques, such as qvevri. The preservation of history is important to both, creating a connection between the two which can be used to make pairings. All it takes is a bit of creativity and fun. Don't take these pairings too much to heart, but simply enjoy the presentation.

The first wine of the evening was the NV Bagrationi 1882 Classic Brut (about $12). The winery was founded in 1937 and is the primary producer of sparkling wines in Georgia. They have vineyards in the Kartli, Imereti and Kakheti regions of Georgia. The Classic Brut is a blend of three indigenous grapes, Chinebuli, Mtsvane, and Tsitska, which is made in the Charmat method. It is crisp and clean, with plenty of citrus and melon flavors. A good value at this price, it is a nice entry-level sparkling wine to show the promise of Georgia.

We chose to pair this wine with a shower fixture from Lefroy's 1900 Classic White line, a Victorian era beauty. Bagrationi pays homage to 1882, which is during the Victorian period, when the first sparkling wine from Georgia won an international award. In addition, the 1900 Classic White line is said to be "delicate and feminine" which is a phrase which can be used for sparkling wine as well.

Next up, we tasted the 2015 Pheasant's Tears Mtsvane ($20-$25), which is from a relatively new winery. The medium-sized winery, that produces about 60,000 bottles annually, is located in the Imereti region. The name of the wine derives from an ancient Georgian legend about a wine so delicious that it could make a pheasant cry.  Their wines are organic, and all of them are also fermented and aged in qvevri. The Mtsvane grapes for this wine are from 70+ year old vines.

This wine is exotic and intriguing, a lightly amber wine with a delicious melange of spices, herbs, nuts and fruit. In some respects it brings to mind a dry Amontillado Sherry. There is an intense concentration of flavors, a lengthy finish and lots of complexity. And it is also simply delicious. There is a clean taste to it which differs from a number of "orange" wines produced in other countries. Highly recommended.

We paired this wine with a shower head from the 1930 Mackintosh collection, which takes inspiration from the 1930s. The grape vines for this Mtsvane were probably planted during or very close to this decade. In addition, the clean flavors of this qvevri wine reflect the idea of this fixture, the cleansing aspect of the shower head. Plus, all those multiple streams of water reflect the complex flavors found within this wine.

The third wine of the evening was the 2011 Artevani Qvevri Aged Rkatsiteli ($30-$35), which was my favorite Georgian wine at the Boston Wine Expo as well as my second favorite wine of the entire Expo. The Rkatsiteli is from seventy-year old vines, and it is fermented in qvevri for about 24 days and then aged in qvevri for another 8-12 months. With a rich amber color, the wine presents with a fascinating aroma, an alluring mix of herbs, spices, and dried fruits. On the palate, you'll find a complex and intriguing melange of flavors, which can be difficult to describe everything happening in your mouth. It's full bodied, with nice acidity, and a lengthy and satisfying finish. This is the type of wine you slowly savor, enjoying the new and surprising flavors you encounter with each sip. Highly recommended.

We chose to pair this compelling wine with a tap from the 2010 Kafka line, which is characterized by "gentle, sensual curves," that bring to mind the curves of the qvevri. The Kafka line is also said to be "playful and inviting," and this intriguing wine seems to reflect that as well. Plus, the white vessels in the rear of the picture also remind me of qvevri.

The final wine of the evening was the 2015 Teliani Valley Saperavi (about $12), made by a large winery that was established in 1997 on the site of a 19th century winery in the village of Teliani, in the Kakheti region. This wine is made from 100% Saperavi, which was fermented in stainless steel, and sees neither oak nor qvevri. It is an easy drinking red wine, with delicious sour cherry and plum flavors, with nice acidity and restrained tannins. This would be an excellent burger or pizza wine, or have it this summer with grilled meats. A great introduction to the Saperavi grape.

We chose to pair this red wine with a shower fixture from the 1900 Classic Black line, which is said to be a "bold, traditional design" which makes an "elegant, regal statement."  This Saperavi is bold as well, yet elegant too. And it may even be considered the king of the red grapes in Georgia, giving it a regal aspect. In addition, the Classic Black line is considered to be "timeless" land the Saperavi grape, which could be 5,000 years old, is definitely timeless.

Many thanks to Lefroy Brooks for hosting this event, giving us a forum to spread our passion for Georgian wines. Special thanks also go to Wines of Georgia, Bagrationi 1882, Teliani Valley, Artevani, Pheasant's Tears and Deussen Global Communications for all of their assistance, as well as for providing all of the Georgian wines for the event. And thanks to all the attendees whose enthusiasm and curiosity helped make this such an enjoyable evening.

1 comment:

Maureen McKeown said...

What a wonderful evening, Richard. You and Adam did a superb job of taking us back through time by tasting Wines of Georgia and talking historical design through modern time. Cheers! (Did you see the photos? http://bit.ly/2pGasz9)