Qvevri Wine Cellar

Georgia, Kakheti

There are many countries in the world vying for the title of the 'cradle of winemaking', but few have as convincing a claim as Georgia. Deeply steeped in tradition extending back over 8,000 years, before viticulture was established elsewhere in Europe, Georgia has a unique style of winemaking.

This is the home of orange wine, made in the traditional, famous amphora, or 'Qvevri'. Loosely speaking, these are white wines left on the skins for many months, enhancing the phenolics, texture and colour. They have become famous in the UK as the poster children of the natural wine movement. Sadly this category can all too often produce wines that are beautifully packaged but are not always a delight to drink - funky, cloudy and sometimes they just lack any real identity of place or grape-variety. The best wines from Georgia however are most unlike this - textured and grippy, yes, but mineral, crisp and clean. They are wines with an added dimension - wines you can't help but drink with real intrigue and joy.

We came across the wines of Ivane Nareklishvili at a tasting in London early in 2021. We managed to snaffle some samples, tasted together, and our minds were blown. A shared look of excitement came over us, and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on them.

Ivane is a third generation winemaker and founded his own estate – ‘The Qvevri Wine Cellar’ in 2015. From his 3 hectares of land in Kakheti, planted with the local grape varieties, he is making wines in the traditional style (all in the eponymous Qvevri) but with a modern, elegant touch. All are made with minimal intervention, using native yeasts, but he has an eye for purity and quality above all else.

The red Saperavi bowled us over. Clean, pure and fascinating – like a dark and brooding Syrah on the nose, but then almost like a beautiful cru Beaujolais on the palate – this was one of the most striking wines we had tasted in some time. The whites are phenomenal also – from the quince-ladenRkatsiteli (Ree-katsy-telly), to the more savoury, Jura-like Khkhvi and Kisi wines, through to the daddy of them all, the Kakhuri Mtsvivani – golden, rich and tannic, a perfect pairing for a cheese board.

These are wines for wine lovers, drinkers looking for something interesting, diverting and delicious. There is a ‘back to the future’ feel here – where old traditional practices are making wines in a style that could not be more vital and more current today.