World First International Saperavi Symposium successfully held in Shanghai

The world’s first International Saperavi Symposium was held in Shanghai last month in partnership with ProWine China to shine a light on this ancient Georgian variety.

Saperavi, an ancient Georgian red grape, has been on the rise in recent years and the potential of the grape is now being explored not only by winemakers from Georgia, but also other parts of the world.

The three-hour symposium included presentations given by a panel of experts, including Lado Uzunashvili (Georgian-Australian winemaker and consultant), Cassidy Dart MW, Mary Hamilton (CEO of Hugh Hamilton Wines in Australia), Robert Joseph (wine writer and critic), Loris Tartaglia (chief winemaker of Pu Chang China) and Zeinulla Kakimzhanov (winemaker and CEO of Arba Winery in Kazakstan). It served as a platform for international wine experts, media and educators to get together and examine the ancient variety.

The panel discussed various topics, such as whether Saperavi could be considered a noble grape variety. Cassidy Dart MW introduced the concept of “nobility” to the audience and several examples of aged Saperavi were tasted. It was agreed by the panel that the older vintage Saperavi developed very well with age – a key characteristic of a noble grape.

Saperavi is also very flexible in terms of viticulture and winemaking; winemakers from Australia, China, Kazakhstan and Georgia shared their experiences with the adaptive traits of the grape and how it might thrive in an era of climate change.

Debra Meiburg MW said at the symposium, “its ability to thrive in extreme heat, achieving a deep-purple, almost opaque colour and full fruit-ripeness often at such modest alcohol levels of 12.5% suggest Saperavi is not a glance at our past, but a window to our future.”

Indeed, in recent years there has been a general shift in demand in some of the world’s major wine markets towards alternative varieties, craft-style production across the drinks industry, and products that really demonstrate a sense of place. Robert Joseph reckoned the young consumers, who are always in pursuit of new flavours, show a growing demand for Saperavi. As the grape is ancient yet modern at the same time, it provides both good financial and cultural value for consumers. For example, Chinese consumers have developed a taste for Saperavi. Georgia is China’s ninth largest international supplier of wines, with Saperavi right to the fore.

Seventeen Saperavis from seven countries (Australia, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, New Zealand and United States) were featured in the final session – an in-depth international comparative tasting. Climate, terroir, age, winemaking styles, blending and vinification were compared and contrasted in this landmark tasting. The older samples included a 2005 from Georgia, still showing well-defined tannic and acid structure.

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