(google translated, with few corrections)
Some twelve years ago, when one would never find decent wine in Tbilisi bars and wine shops, when there were only a few small wineries and only a small part of them took the case seriously, I researched with crazy enthusiasm, on the role and prospects of small wineries. I may disagree with many things in that work, but have never doubted that the development of small cellars and an exclusive natural winemaking is the only right way for Georgia to establish the status of a real "wine country". Since then we have done a lot to improve this field, and indeed, if we have anything to be proud of today in Georgian winemakers family, it is not the vast containers sold by some giant company and the millions earned, but the world’s sincere interest in exclusive wines produced by small Georgian wineries.
We already have really good, very deep winemakers today. Just a few, but still! However, however ... In fairness, it should be said that the world's interest in Georgian winemaking is still caused not by the incomparable art of any of our winemakers, but - mainly - by the rediscovery of the phenomenon of kvevri. Those who are familiar with the field are well aware that the "amber revolution" that has begun in recent years in the wine world is due to the rediscovery of Georgia and its ancient winemaking tradition, in particular, the kvevri.
However, the true history of Georgian winemaking is still forgotten. Only a kvevri, with all its best features, or the use of grape stems and skins can not give Georgian wine uniqueness. Georgian wine, the wine of each of its vineyards is unique not because of the pottery or technology, but because of the uniqueness of these vineyards themselves. Well-known European and American oenologists and wine masters have long noticed this shortcoming of modern Georgian winemaking, that the importance of terroir is practically forgotten, terroir is not an integral part of the wine discourse. This is a mistake, it casts a serious shadow over the depth and height of Georgian winemaking and prevents us from becoming the world's leading winemaker, which, I would say, should be the dream and challenge of every true winemaker, therefore the goal of any industry organization and an integral part of a state policy.
Many winemakers already know from their own experience that wine is grown in the vineyard. Therefore, it is impossible to forget that the vineyard grows on terroir. Georgia is one of the most diverse terrains on the face of the earth. We have abundant water, mountainous terrain gives us an abundance of sun-drenched slopes and rocky valleys, we have a great variety of soils and an incredibly diverse climate. This means that we, as a country of winemaking, have an amazing terroir diversity. Add to this the incredible number of endemic varieties of grapes and you will easily see that we have an absolutely perfect set to be world champions in winemaking as a country. That is, we have innumerable best terroirs; We have our own, countless and best varieties; We have the best technological vessel - a kvevri (which - shamefully - we can not produce quality); And we have the best and centuries-old technologies, ancient folk recipes for terroir wine (!), such as "Atenuri", "Khidistauri" (a long list needs special work), etc. etc.
Unfortunately, the owners of all this, we lost the tradition, lack new knowledge, hence fail to see it in unity and, as we don’tsee, we don’t care.How many terroirs are abandoned in this wonderful country, how many old vineyards are dumped, we plant barley instead of vineyards and plant vineyards in the place of corn, we even fail to produce a decent kvevri (!) in this country and we forgot what real, living wine means and tastes. The boom of kvevri cellars, which has started in recent years, may look interesting from the outside, but the "kitchen"would leave you disappointed.
Imagine: we, the cradle of winemaking people, with the happy exceptions, produce "natural wine" with purchased grapes. The reality is that, first of all, the purchased grapes never give you the required quality, and at the same time, most of the winemakers buy one grape here, the other - there, mix it together and make it into a natural wine. It is a shameful, and completely unacceptable reality…
Let’s look at something else: Why is the development of small wineries considered a positive development? Nothing small we loved, so why have we stuck here? Because a small cellar serves a small terroir, tied to a vineyard, and this vineyard is an important player in the diversity of the field. You cannot be a great winemaker only because you have a cool cellar, if you do not have a vineyard or you do not have a great vineyard. Without exaggeration, terroirs can be said to be one of the greatest treasures of Georgia. To be taken care, though…
To look after the terroir, we must understand it. It is a broad and multi-layered concept, but let us for the moment pay a special attention to the use of "cultural" yeasts. Many consider it as an alternative to wild yeasts, while wild yeasts are also a part of terroir ... These "cultural" yeasts have become a discovery for many novice winemakers. And not just for beginners. For me personally, many experienced winemakers have lost interest because they started to use the commercial yeasts. Their logic is simple: let the vineyard lack health, let the grapes be unknown, let the wild yeasts lack health and strength ... Buy some grapes (to have good sugar levels, and if you don't have to add sugar, then you will proudly term it "natural wine"), then, whatever yeasts came with grapes, burn them out with sulfur, then buy this "cultural" yeasts, you buy the nutritional vitamins of this yeast separately , you pour all this into the sulfur-treated sweet grape-juice and the wine will ferment. If you keep the proportions, the vinification will be stable, a delicious and understandable wine will come out, which will not get sick easily and will taste like candy. It's easy, isn't it? And then, if you put this wine in a kvevri, will it be the kvevri wine? Then there is the small cellar kvevri wine! Is not it a shame?
A true winemaker is well aware that a real, a living wine is not a mere alcoholic beverage. I am the guardian of kvevri as such, and let no one come out, but neither kvevri means anything to replace the vineyard. Real wine is a drink made by nature itself. The sugar content, color, aromas and flavors of the grapes depend entirely on the terroir where the vine grows. The less the viticulturist disturbs nature, the less he interferes with the formation of microflora or microfauna, the healthier, longer lasting, harmonious, tasty and aromatic the wine will be. In a vineyard or a cellar, our main duty is to maintain hygiene. Clearly, we can form terroir, for example, by enriching it with plants, bringing in organic matter, arranging the infrastructure needed for the breeding of beneficial insects, creating windbreaks, and so on. But every other gross interference only impoverishes wine and eventually even kills it. The whole world drinks such dead wines, no wonder. Big business is done with a dead wine, living wines and life-elixirs are not involved in the business and, therefore, little if any thought and care is given to this case. Meanwhile there are very few wine-monks, who have winemaking as a way of life and ritual.
Yeasts are the most important part of this world. Without the yeasts, the sweet cannot be fermented, and therefore, there will be no wine. After much noise, debate and observation, it has been proven that wild yeasts are found in nature in hundreds of varieties of dozens of families, and each terroir is characterized by a unique combination of yeasts. Some researchers argue that the combination of yeasts affects the year more than terroir. I do not understand this argument because vintage still grows on a terroir. That is, from year to year we may not have the exact standard combination of yeasts on a given terroir, but one way or another, it will still be a combination of yeasts typical for this particular terroir this year. For example, if we say that it is the Chinuri variety of Tedzmiskhevi, 2015, it means that the amount of sun, precipitation and winds of 2015 in Tedzmiskhevi, its soil and the yeasts that existed here during this period, gave us this wine.
Now imagine a winemaker slaughtering these wild yeasts and making wine with commercial ones. Although the sun, rain, precipitation, and soil have remained the same, most of the terroir is still missing - the yeasts, or microorganisms that are directly responsible for turning grape sweetness into wine, no longer exist in all their diversity. They have been replaced by cyborg yeasts, which will tame the rest to its own temper.
We must remember that the good and bad inherent in a terroir the given year, have the same effect on yeasts as on vines and grapes. If the viticulturist strictly observes hygiene, then only nature determines the strength and vigor of these yeasts, and they will live in harmony with all the other parts of the ecosystem, as they themselves are an integral part of it.
Real, living wine is a direct descendent of a given ecosystem just as, for example, honey, which assumes the taste and bouquet depending on where the beekeeper has placed his hives; Or - cheese, which depends on the grass that the cow eats on particular terroir. Imagine replacing bees with a nano-robot that collects flower nectar and converts it into honey, or we made cheese from standardized cow's milk, would it be natural honey and cheese? You would know the answer...
Many neophyte winemakers, as soon as the harvest approaches, start looking for grapes according to price and sugar content. It all ends with buying Chinuri in Lamiskana and Goruli Mtsvane in Kvishkheti. They will never reflect that these are two completely different terroirs, so they'll blend these grapes together, and even worse – they will write “Garikula” on the label – just because the cellar is located in Garikula. However, we cannot name that wine “natural” – even if the vineyards they brought the grapes from are perfect, and even if they really behave in the cellar. Vineyards of Kvishkheti and Lamiskana never naturally overlap, so the mentioned hypothetical wine is just not natural… Its only a mixture breed of a Silver Poodle and Saint Bernarddoggie.
Someone will tell we produce radical wines. Isn't that funny? That is, if I stay close to nature, grow vines harmoniously and also make my own wine, I am a radical winemaker and the one who suffocates vineyards and yeasts in a gas chamber and drinks plastic wine at the end, is a normal and classic winemaker? It's funny, of course.
Another point: Terroir winemaker needs talent, and terroirs need close feeling. In addition to knowing the soil, sun, winds, and raind of the terroir, in addition to knowing your yeasts, you need to know the tastes of your terroir, and you need to play with those flavors. And if you understand the reasons for this taste - then you are a man! this is a whole other story now, and whoever can do it, my lord, he is a real winemaker.
Could it be a winemaker without producing a multi-cepage, or without an assemblage? No, it is not possible! Can you become a winemaker without making mono-cepages for years and learning these flavors? no not possible! Can you become a winemaker in two, three, four years? No, sir, you can not. Can you become a winemaker without a tradition? No! it is just not realistic! Tradition must be received, developed and transmitted, or - created and transmitted. One cannot be a winemaker without some serious thought.
This is about the basic vision and philosophy around which we began to gather friends in the name of the "Terroir" society. We want to form a business friendship of decent, wise, energetic and hard-working winemakers. We want to create an additional niche of credibility in the wine market, which will be a kind of quality mark and the wine lover will know where and how to find us when he wants to taste living wines. We will have our own quality mark and we will be a special crazy savory, with glorious wines!
We are currently creating an online platform for our friends's wines, which is a non-profit resource and the winemakers who adhere this philosophy will easily sell their best works. In our social networks you can easily reach out to us, write to us and create a great, kind, tasty and very successful Dionysian family.
External image: Zura Khvtisiashvili vineyard in Akhoebi, Kardenakhi
Internal image: Kakha Vakhtangadze's vineyard in Jvarisa, Racha
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