Having lived and worked in the former USSR for many many years, and having recently been involved in projects in Georgia, I am quite familiar with Georgian wines. The problem with them is not that they are bad, or sweet, or anything, but rather that they are very inconsistent, and that you have to see which producer you are getting any particular wine from.
For example, among the wine labels that are popular and widely available (at least over there) there are Mukuzani, Kindzmarauli, Tsinandali, and others. Generally Mukuzani is a dryish red, as is Kindzmarauli, while Tsinandali is a white. However, the quality and even the sugar content varies tremendously depending on where the wine was made, and by which cooperative. In general, those produced by Georgian Wine Co (or something like that) are the best, and also more expensive. I have seen these imported into the US in Russian neighborhoods, but nowhere else. Elsewhere when I see Georgian wines in this country they tend to be rather lousy, and not worth the effort of seeking out.
re: Aaron D
I disagree completely that they are usually sweet. Perhaps that is all you have ever seen available where you are...
I live near a German market which for some odd reason, sells more Georgian wines than German wines (in SoCal). I have tried the sweet wines (yes, they do exist in plenty) like dessert Pinot Gris, but I have also sampled Georgian sparkling wines (Methode Champenoise) and some hearty reds. Oddly, my little store has a wider selection of sparkling reds than sparkling whites, which I think we are all more accostomed to.
I have not been thrilled with the quality but some do show promise. They have been more of a fun experiment for me.
I defer to you...my experience is fairly limited, and my estimation is influenced also by my sampling of Serbian, Dalmatian, and Romanian wines, which I perhaps unjustly assume to be of a similar breed. And all the ones I've had have been pretty cheap. If you know of any good labels, I'd like to keep an eye out--I'm eager to be proven wrong.
re: Aaron D
I don't have a label for you, but I remember trying a Georgian sparkling wine blind with a group of sparklers from around the world. It showed well against Cava and lower end Champagne (under $25).
Two years ago, I had the chance to taste the dessert wines from the Ukraine. Several had survived WWII. If you have the chance to buy these in your market, they're well worth sampling. [note: prices are Calif. WHOLESALE and 2 years old] Here are the tasting notes from my wine diary:
The Massandra Collection
Bankers Club, San Francisco
April 17, 2000
The Massandra Palace and Imperial Winery is located on the Crimean Black Sea Coast at the west end of the town of Yalta in the now independent Ukraine. Founded by Tsar Nicholas II in 1890, the winery survived the Red Army and prospered under Stalin who was a fan of sweet wines. The wines were evacuated during World War II as the Germans advanced, and any bulk stocks that couldn't be moved were dumped into the Black Sea, turning it red for as far as the eye could see. When Yalta was liberated in April 1944, the wines were returned to the cellars by the time of the historic conference which shaped post-war Europe in February 1945. Closely studying the photograph of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Livadia Palace, no wine glasses or bottles are in evidence, so it is unclear whether they partook of the Cabernet Sauvignon or dessert wines produced at this site.
Still suffering from a wicked upper respiratory infection at this point, I mustered every bit on energy to drag myself to this tasting of historic wines. Despite reduced sensory perception, I found them to be remarkably compelling and unique in the world of dessert wine. Syrupy thick and sweet, the bright acidity supports the sugar well and has kept them fresh and lively these many decades.
The wines are described in the order of tasting with per bottle Calif. wholesale prices.
MV Pinot Gris, $17.50-500ml, 16% alcohol, 240 g/L RS - Apricot pink hue, nose and palate of apricot preserves and honey, very syrupy and condensed on the palate, mouthfilling and unctuous texture, very sweet but balanced with clean acidity and touch of bitter almond, smokey fleshy finish. Very Good
MV White Muscat, $17.50-500ml, 13-16% alcohol, 200-230 g/L RS - Grape jelly, honey, bit of spice, citron and orange blossom nose, tangy acidity with citrusy flavors mingled with honey and sultanas, long clean finish. Very Good
MV Tokay, $17.50-500ml, 16% alcohol, 200-260 g/L RS - Amber honey color, honeyed toffee nose with nutty note and touch of floral and smoke, voluptuous texture, more complex and rich in the mouth with primary fruits, apple cider and toffee peanuts, clean acidic entry, not as dense in texture, longer and more complete with great persistance. Excellent
MV Pink Muscat, $17.50-500ml, 13% alcohol, 200-230 g/L RS - Ruddy amber hue, spicier nose with rancio, apricot, sultanas, rhubarb and strawberry, massive dimensions, fresh acidity lifting syrupy texture and defining yellow stone fruit, rhubarb and spice in the mouth, long tingly finish. Excellent
MV Kagor Imperial bottle, $25.50, 15.5% alcohol, 180 g/L RS - Made from the Saperavi grape indigenous to Georgia which has red juice and skins. Ruby bronze color, tangy phenolic nose with some VA, rancio, wood spice, dried plum, raisin and currant glaze, seamless meld of caramel, bitter spices, nutmeg, cherry, dried fruits and cassis gums, biting acidic finish, very long. Excellent
83 White Muscat, $110 - Dark amber, honeyed nose with floral, sultana and green gage plum, weighty in the mouth with toffee, green apple, green gage plums, spice and floral, very complex, long clean finish. Very Good
64 White Muscat Livadia, $210 - Medium amber color, aromas of rancio, roasted nuts, burnt sugar, musk, apple cider, camphor, thyme and mince meat, bright green apple acidity, creamy texture with unusual menthol nuance on primary fruit, good length. Very Good
51 Kokur Surozh, $280, 16% alcohol, 160 g/L RS - The Kokur grape was believed to have been introduced by the Genoese when they colonized eastern Crimea. Light amber, nose and palate of menthol, leather, citrus rind and wood spice, bright acidity with clean, crisp finish. Very Good
At this point I stopped spitting the wines and allowed myself to savor each drop.
48 Aleatiko Partinit, $250, 16% alcohol, 200 g/L RS - Medium amber hue, spicy red cinnamon hots nose with caramel, baked apple and sultanas, fresh green apple acidity, floral and grapey flavors mingle with toffee and roasted chestnuts in the mouth, warm finish of moderate length. Very Good
48 Tokay South Coast, $350 - One of the few varieties in the Crimea affected by botrytis. Amber gold shading, honeyed nose with dried tangerine, spun sugar, dried apricot, baked apple and nutmeg, fresh acidity, seamless and well-integrated with sleek body, no heat, medium sweet, becomes more intense at each turn taking on nuance of victorian tinctures, intricately detailed, very long and persistent. Outstanding
47 Kragor, $300 - Translucent garnet hue, spicy nose with old wood, rhubarb, dried cherry, cedar and leather, clean acidity with sweeter profile, some drying tannins, abundant primary fruit in the mouth of cherry and strawberry with woody spice and leathery tones, prickly finish with lasting spice box aftertaste. Excellent
40 Pink Muscat Alupka, $460 - Amber brown color, spiritous nose of toffee, coffee, spice, baked apples, fresh figs, fruit cake, roasted chestnuts and dates, opulent texture, sizzling acidity brings into focus a seamless swathe of flavors building in complexity on the palate, noble carriage and impeccable balance, never-ending finish. Outstanding
37 Black Muscat Kuchuk Lambat, $500, 13% alcohol, 240 g/L RS - Dark amber and murky from fine sediment, nose of sandalwood, coffee, brown sugar, rancio, dried fig, honeysuckle and raisins, fresh cut of acidity, spicier in the mouth with green apple burst and complex melange of coffee, caramel, toasted almond, vanilla and raisins, extraordinary harmony of primary and tertiary character, lithe and vivid through very long finish. Outstanding
re: Melanie Wong
I happen to like Georgian wines -- the reds (which I have the most experience with) are usually rougher and sweeter than their French or Californian counterparts, but they go well with Georgian and other garlicky foods and are especially refreshing in summer, since they tend to be served cool or even cold.
I have vivid memories of drinking an especially soft and lush homemade red ladled straight from the barrel by a Georgian friend's father in Tbilisi back in 1995. For some reason many of these wines taste like they are low alcohol, which I am not sure they are.
The link below is to a site that describes all the different varieties of Georgian wine. Most of the liquor stores in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn carry a selection of Georgian wines; try e.g. Ocean Wine & Liquor, 514 Brighton Beach Ave. (under the Brighton Beach Q stop).