We received the product for review and all opinions are our own.
I know that the Texas wine industry is relatively new, but I didn’t realize how young it really is until I had the opportunity to taste and evaluate a bottle of wine from Georgia – the European country, not the US state – where wine dates back 8,000 years. That makes Georgia the oldest wine-making country in the world.
While the roots of the Saperavi (sah-per-RA-vee) grape that made the wine I tasted date back to 6,000 BC, the wine itself was a 2018 Mukuzani Dry Red Wine that was imported from Georgia by Florida-based Silk Road Wines. That company is a veteran-founded importer and distributor of Georgia wines that is expanding its distribution network into Texas through contracts with H-E-B and its Central Market stores.
Having been trained and worked in public relations, I was most impressed with the holiday gift box that was sent to me to taste on behalf of Texas Wine Lover. Upon removing the ribbon-wrapped gold box from its secure shipping container, I was treated to a burst of holiday lights and gold froufrou when I opened the box. Firmly secured by small Velcro pads were a 750 ml bottle of wine, a small logo wine glass, a logo double-action wine opener, and a small box of Godiva chocolates.
To gain an understanding of what I was being exposed to, I accessed the internet to find out about the wine. I learned that it is a new release for Silk Road Wines made in the Mukuzani Appellation Controlled Microzone in Kakheti, Georgia. That country is at the historic “Silk Road” trade route intersection of eastern Europe and western Asia. Mukuzani has been produced since 1888 and is aged for three years. It is considered by many to be the best of the Georgian red wines made from the Saperavi grape.
I learned that the Saperavi grape that was used to create the wine I would taste is a hardy, late-ripening Vitis Vinifera grape that has dark skin and pink-tinted pulp, thereby classifying it as one of the few teinturier grapes that is used in single-varietal winemaking. Saperavi was described as producing a wine that is inky, with taste characteristics that can include black fruit, licorice, chocolate, smoked meat, and savory spice.
With all of that pomp and information, I delayed my tasting for two days to allow the bottle to “settle” in our temperature-controlled wine cabinet. During that time I researched what foods would pair with the Saperavi grape and was pleased to find that I had on hand the ingredients to prepare roasted new potatoes and ham to pair with the wine.
While the potatoes were first boiling and then roasting, I opened the wine and poured a three-ounce tasting in the provided Silk Road logo glass to get first impressions. There was not a lot of aroma on the nose of the dark wine I poured. However, I immediately experienced a hot pepper sensation on my tongue before finding the wine lighter in mouthfeel than expected and having hints of tobacco and dark fruits. As I tried additional sips, I found that the lingering finish was less peppery, and I decided that the wine was Syrah-like.
With my dinner of ham, herb roasted potatoes, and a corn/English pea combination, I switched from the small tasting glass to an 11.5 ounce Chef & Sommelier Reveal’ Up Soft Wine Glass. The larger glass, accompanied by 45 minutes of the bottle breathing, provided a nose of soft red fruit aromas. The peppery jolt was tamped down and I enjoyed a broader tongue-covering of flavors.
As I paired the wine with my meal, I noted that the 13% ABV 2018 Mukuzani is definitely a food wine. Foods that I think would be most appropriate are steak au poivre and BBQ. Since I still had some wine in my glass after cleaning my plate, I decided to try some of the Godiva chocolates that were included in the holiday gift box. Quickly I added chocolate, especially fruit-filled versions, as a great pairing with the 2018 Mukuzani.
Since my wife and wine-drinking partner Phyllis could not taste the 2018 Mukuzani with me due to a fall that has had her hospitalized and in a rehab facility, I had wine left in the bottle. I firmly replaced the cork and stored the remaining wine in my wine cabinet for another 24 hours. Upon re-opening it and finding it still fresh, I determined that both the Bleu cheese crumbles and spicy queso I tried enhanced the pepperiness of the wine. The creaminess of a Nutty Port Wine cheese ball, slices of Velveeta, and thin pieces of a young Gouda smoothed the wine’s taste for me.
Although Silk Road Wines include dry reds and whites, semi-sweet reds and whites, rosés, amber, and Qvevri (a natural skin-contact wine), not all bottlings may be at the H-E-B or Central Market where you shop. I found only a Silk Road Wines semi-sweet red at the H-E-B nearest me in Atascocita and it was priced at $18.99. The larger H-E-B store nearby in Kingwood was not carrying any of the Silk Road Wines.
If you are in an H-E-B or Central Market and find yourself in the wine section, I would encourage you to seek out Silk Road Wines. That way you can do your own comparison and see how well the young Texas wine industry is doing against wines with thousands of years of history. In my opinion, all that history has put the Texas wine industry on the right track.