Photo: Courtesy of Bagrationi.
To pop open something different this New Year's Eve, turn to the country that's been making wine the longest: the Republic of Georgia. It's estimated that wine-making began here around 5,000 B.C., which is much earlier than the advent of France, Spain and Italy's storied wine history. Even today, about 75 percent of Georgians earn part of their income from wine in some way, and the republic produces about 500 grape varietals.
, Georgia's leading sparkling-wine house, founded in 1937, recently began exporting its Brut to the United States -- although the first bottles date back 130 years. Whereas many bubblies are marked by dryness or sweetness, Bagrationi produces a very balanced bottle that's excellent for matching up with hors d'oeuvres.
Located on the Black Sea coast and surrounded by the Caucasian mountains, the viticulture climate in this area of Georgia consists of warm sunny days and cool nights. Winters are frost-free and mild, so there is no death to the grapes when the temperature dips.
Here are two Bagrationi bruts available throughout the United States.
Bagrationi 1882 Classic Brut ($14):
This is one of the best values I've seen over the past few years when shopping for bubbly. Oregano and mint are on the nose, sailing into notes of honeydew melon and ending with a buttery, lingering finish. Expect a snappy, crisp wine with good structure but delicate too.
Bagrationi 1882 Reserve ($25):
Blends of Chinebuli, Mtsvane and Tsitska varietals are used to make this Brut. A peach and apricot nose is followed by concise, refreshing bubbles and lots of fruit. Yet it's as balanced as its budget counterpart above.