If Rkatsiteli is the white grape of eastern Georgia, then Tsolikouri is the white grape of western Georgia. Pronounced sol-li-kori, Tsolikouri is planted throughout Imereti. The region is packed with small producers producing traditional-Georgian-style wines, with the result that some of the country’s most exciting grape varieties are found in this area – including Tsolikouri.
Imereti’s humidity makes it a challenging area for many grapes, but Tsolikouri is relatively thick-skinned which helps it to resist fungal diseases. Most Tsolikouri plantings are in Imereti and Guria, but it is also planted in Racha-Lechkhumi, Samegrelo, and Adjara.
When made in a European style, Tsolikouri is medium- to full-bodied, with a slightly oily texture which gives the wine weight. It has quite soft acidity with subtle notes of yellow fruits, melon with floral hints. Unlike most white Georgian grapes, Tsolikouri is often fermented and/ or matured in oak, with great success. When made in traditional Georgian qvevris, the wines gain more body and complexity, with layered flavors of citrus fruit, stone fruit, with a touch of floral notes. This variety shows great promise and is already makes fantastic wine, especially orange wine.
Though it makes exceptional varietal wines, Tsolikouri can also be blended with the lighter-bodied Tsitska, and sometimes Krakhuna, for PDO Sviri wines. In PDO Tvishi, a semi-sweet wine Lechkhumi with 30-40g/l residual sugar, Tsolikouri is a solo act. Tsolikouri wines have the potential for considerable longevity if properly crafted.
There are a number of great examples available for you to try in the UK. Try the single varietal Tsolikouri made by Pheasant’s Tears winery from Vinum, Noble Green Wines and VSF.
Alternatively, try an amber, Qvevri-made example which is a blend of Tsitska and Tsolikouri from Baia’s Wine. This is available from Taste of Georgia, The Oxford Wine Company, and WineBuyers.com.
Alternatively, try one of these qvevri examples from The Smiling Grape Company and Hedonism.