Performance-Enhancing Wines

November 27, 2023
Three of the

When we first started the club, there was talk about how few bottles it may take to reach 100 grape varieties. Perhaps 10-20 with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Port field blends etc. Those speculations now seem quaint and completely blown away by these bottles of vinous steroids

  1. Leth’s Simply Wow! 216 grape varieties (186 confirmed)
  2. Giribaldi Cento Uve 152 grape varieties (125 confirmed)
  3. Pheasant’s Tears Poliphonia 417 grape varieties claimed

Depending on how you count them, that’s 728 to 785 varieties in 3 bottles! (Heinz, you’ve got nothing on these!) These have been languishing for a few years now in my cellar. Quite frankly, I’ve been afraid to open them, not knowing what kind of horrors or delights might be unleashed by this veritable Pandora’s Box. And, of course, I will be tempted to make the ultimate cuvee that can propel any mere mortal into the exalted Heptavin (700) level of Wine Century Club membership. It will undoubtedly send Deborah and me well over 1000.

Is this fair? I’m not so sure, especially when our current holder of the Grand Prix du Cépage, has never tasted the Poliphonia (he has had the Leth’s Simply Wow!, however). I admire Chris Hamm’s remarkable work in coming up with a speculative list of the 417 varieties in the Poliphonia, but unfortunately, they can’t be confirmed with the winemaker. He and his wife Gayle have recently submitted their applications for 1,220 (wow!) grape varieties. A ruling by the Committee was necessary.

The Committee came back with this ruling:

Applications with grape counts that include performance-enhancing wines will be permitted. However, given the speculative nature of the count in the Poliphonia, all certificates will be marked with an asterisk (like Barry Bond’s record-breaking baseball in the Baseball Hall of Fame). Furthermore, Poliphonia grapes will not count in the Grand Prix du Cépage.

By Delaywaves – Own work, CC BY 3.0

What do you think?


  1. Fair enough, let the games begin. Our non-Poliphonia count, is about 870/880. I’m double checking that number 🙂 We have tried 50+ other Georgian varietals in separate bottles. I recall reading one documented list of 125+/-, known varietals in Poliphonia. I’ll see if I can track that record down. Good luck to all in your wine search 🙂

  2. Question. I have a bottle of Poliphonia, from 2020. On the back label is listed 128 varietals. Will the Wine Century Club accept the documented 128 varietals listed on the Wine Bottle? I can take a picture and send it to the Club.

  3. Here are the documented varietals from the 2020 bottling.1) Saperavi 2) Goruli Aladasturi 3) Matchkvaturi 4) Tchvitluri 5)Tavkveri 6) Rkatsiteli 7) Buza Kartli 8) Vardispera 9) Aladasturi 10) Kakhuri Mtsvane 11) Lakolazhgi 12) Zakatalis Tetri 13) Jineshi 14) Tkbili Kurdzini 15) Buera 16) Tsulukidzis 17) Achkikizhi 18) Danakharuli 19) Saperavi Budeshurisebri 20) Chitisvala Tetri 21) Kartlis Tita 22) Tchrogha 23) Kahhuri Mtsvivani 24)Dzaghliarchama 25) Shavkapito 26) Kamuri Tetri 27) Chinuri 28) Tsiv Chkhavera 29) Nakutveuli 30) Chkaveri 31) Tchumuta 32) Tevan Didi 33) Tsirakhi 34) Vardzia 35) Chardonnay 36) Sakartvelo 37) Livanuri Tetri 38) Tskhvedianis Tetri 39) Gabasha 40) Beglaris Vazi 41) Otshanuri Sapere 42) Sadzire 43) Adanasuri 44) Buza 45) Rachuli Shavi 46) Tsitelauri 47) Ubakluri 48) Arabeuli Shavi 49) Natskhara 50) Berbesho 51) Alexandruli 52) Labiladzis Tetri 53) Maghkari Mshvitvala 54) Krakhuna 55) Mtsvane Kviteli 56) Bazaleturi Tsolikauri 57) Kartula 58) Tsiska 59) Kundza 60) Dondghlabi 61) Didshavi 62) Tsolikouri 63) Tsvrimala 64) Danakharuli 65) Sirajouli Shavi 66) Mtskhvilmartzvala Tetri 67) Magaloloblishvili 68) Dzelshavi 69) Akhmetis Tsiteli 70) Qvelouri 71) Argvetuli Sapere 72) Kurkena 73) Godaaturi 74) Dzirageuli 75) Schemodghmis Shavi 76) Maghleris Trtvina 77) Sachkeris Dzelshavi 78) Rko Shavi 79) Jvari 80) Gomis Tetri 81) Chitiskvertskha 82) Supris Gorula 83) Kishuri 84) Khikhvi Rachuli 85) Ghrubela Kakhuri 86) Meskhuri Mtsvane 87) Tchkapa 88) Shavtita 89) Saperavi Atenuri 90) Saperavi Kartlis 91) Sreluri 92) Kistauri Saghvine 93) Institutis Grdzelmtevana 94) Kurkeni 95) Kakhis Tetri 96) Ghvins Tetri 97) Gorula 98) Mkhgargzeli 99) Grdzelmtevana 100) Tshrogha Akhuri 101) Chtisvala Bodburi 102) Tsinoris Tetri 103) Sapena 104) Khargrdzeli Kviteli 105) Sirgula 106) Batomura 107) Kakhuri Tetri 108) Adreuli Tetri 109) Chtistvala Kakhuri 110) Tskhenis Dzudzu 111) Mtschvartala 112) Khikhvi 113) Loladzis Khikhvi 114) Rkatsiteli Mtsvane 115) Chitisvala Tsiteli 116) Ikaltos Tsiteli 117) Chrogha 118) Ingilouri 119) Budeshuri Tsiteli 120) Simonaseuli 121) Shavtkhila 122) Akhmetis Shavi 123) Seura 124) Mujuretuli 125) Kamuri Tetri 126) Nakutvnuli 127) Tskobila 128) Zakatalis Tsiteli

  4. Thanks for the continued efforts with documenting the Poliphonia, Chris. Definitely include all of the 128 grapes.

    Still, I don’t really understand why they initially stated 417 grapes.

  5. Steve. Pheasants Tears has been advertising the use of 417 varietals for some time. Pheasants Tears is also documented to be a “Library” Vineyard for the Republic of Georgia. There have been a number of publications noting and acknowledging this number. Pheasants Tears to date, has resisted/ignored efforts to document what the 417 varietals actually were. The 2020 bottling was the first time Pheasants Tears produced a Poliphonia with noted fewer grapes. A lot fewer grapes. My intuition is, the Winery finally realized producing a wine with 400+ varietals is a clusterf$%!. My judgement tells me they decided to try to make a more manageable and reproducable Wine. I “think” when the 2021 bottling is available, the list of documented grapes in the 2021 bottling will be different than the list of grapes in the 2020 bottling. Time will tell.

    BTW, Happy New Year 🙂

  6. Happy New Year Chris!

    There are many field blended wines, especially in the Duoro where the names of all of the grapes going into the wine are not all exactly known. It doesn’t make a difference to the winemaking as they aren’t harvesting individually by grape variety.

    Here all they have to do is NAME the 417 grapes, otherwise it isn’t much of a “Library”.

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