Hugh Hamilton’s Georgian love affair

Hugh Hamilton (Photo: Hugh Hamilton Wines)

McLaren Vale winemaker Hugh Hamilton has fallen in love with the Georgian black grape, saperavi. He’s totally besotted. Hook, line and sinker.

He has it planted in his own McLaren Vale vineyards but has also ventured to Georgia (that’s the former Soviet Union state, not the USA) to further his knowledge in the saperavi motherland. He’s made wine there, and has released two wines made in 2014 and 2015 harvests with his friend, Georgian winemaker Lado Uzunashvili. One is a saperavi, the other a white wine made from another indigenous grape, mtsvane (pronounced mits-vah-nay).

Hugh Hamilton Wines is now offering these two in a mixed four-pack with the 2014 and 2015 Hugh Hamilton ‘Oddball’ McLaren Vale saperavis, for AUD $295. Named The Exotica Collection, it can be bought from the company’s website. The four beautifully-labelled bottles come in a smart cardboard box with plenty of information. The 2014 Oddball ‘The Great’ Saperavi itself is individually wrapped in a striking black-and-white patterned cloth, which is based on a traditional Georgian design for a tablecloth on which a ‘supra’ banquet is served.

Saperavi is rare in Australia but we can expect to see more of it if Hugh has his way. He is planting more – so that in future Hugh Hamilton Wines will have three saperavis, just as it now has three Black Blood super-shirazes: one each from their Blewitt Springs vineyard, Church vineyard and Cellar vineyard. At present, all of the saperavi comes from the Church vineyard.

The company has been making The Oddball Saperavi since 2005. It is the darkest coloured and most tannic variety they make. Indeed, Mary Hamilton, Hugh’s daughter, tells me the name saperavi means ‘dye’ in Georgian.

The McLaren Vale wines are massively dense and dark in colour, tannic and full-bodied. The Georgian wine, named The Quirky, is less extreme but more detailed and has a slightly different aroma and flavour spectrum. Quite fascinating.

Regarding the Georgian adventure, Mary says there are no immediate plans to continue the project but Hugh has been known to change his mind without warning.

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