If you said the United States of America, nice try. The U.S. government's idea of supporting its own country's wine is to keep the beer & wine distributors who heavily contribute to political campaigns happy. It's not like the European Union, where wine producers get all sorts of government support.
No, the answer is a country that is in Europe, but not in the E.U., and therefore not able to balance its budget with money from Germany. It's Georgia: "the country, not the state," as you have to tell everyone whenever you talk about Georgian wine.
Why is the U.S. government supporting Georgian wine?
"Because they want Georgia to stay focused on the west instead of their big neighbor to the north," says Lisa Granik, an MW who presented a tasting of Georgian wines recently in San Francisco.
Georgia's economy is a mess. Part of its territory is occupied by Russia, which cut off imports of its wines in 2006, leading to a financial crisis. Believe it or not, its number one export is now used cars. People are selling off whatever they have to feed themselves.
|My favorite; can't find it online|
However, until the 1800s, wine was something Georgians made only for their own consumption. Commercial wine production didn't develop until the Soviet era. Stalin was Georgian and he liked wine, and thus he allowed Georgia to keep its own grape varieties, of which it has more than 500.
The workhorses are the white grape Rkatsiteli, the number one variety mainly for its productivity, and the red grape Saperavi.
Georgia produces 15 million cases a year, which sounds like a lot from a country of 4.5 million people, but it's only about as much as Barefoot Cellars, and it's only about 60% of what it produced in the Soviet era.
Natural wine lovers have been excited recently about wines made in qveri, aka amphora. Is this the traditional method of winemaking in Georgia? That word "traditional" is so fuzzy. Commercially, it is not: the Soviets were very serious about technological winemaking. Qveri were something people used themselves in their own backyards, but they didn't sell those wines.
We only tasted eight Georgian wines in a sit-down setting. There were more at a trade walkaround, never ideal tasting conditions, but even less so for wines where one has so little experience. My notes from three different wines at the walkaround include "How did a cider get into this tasting?", "Discomforting, I don't know how to react to it," and "Looks like a urine sample from a very sick person."
But I did really like several wines (scores over 90 points, for those keeping score), and they aren't your grandma's cougar juice. These are true curiosities, yet they are available on the U.S. market, and they're surprisingly cheap.
|Hurray, you can buy this one!|
John Kerry, you've got your work cut out for you.
Schuchmann Rkatsiteli 2014
This full-flavored wine opens with apple and apricot, then finishes with intense minerality. 12.5% alcohol. I could only find the 2012 online (linked above) and I don't know how it ages, but it's only $14 so it's not too expensive to find out.
Teliani Valley Saperavi 2013
Teliani Valley is one of the better organized Georgia wineries so its wines are more consistently available in the U.S. This is an iron-rich, meaty, dark red fruit wine that would be wonderful with steak tartare. 13% alcohol. And holy crap, that's a lot of interesting wine for $10.99. Click on the name to buy it.