Throughout the country’s tumultuous existence, Georgia’s wine culture has stood resolute, a proud constant, as evidenced by the 500-plus native varieties which can be found planted across the land today.
Teliani Valley, a producer at the vanguard of Georgia’s ever-burgeoning wine scene, was established in 1997 as an alliance of young Georgian winemakers whose shared goal was to craft dynamic, contemporary wines which tapped into their country’s spirit and story.
Its vineyards span Georgia’s most esteemed region of Kakheti, dedicated to the cultivation of historic, native grapes, resulting in a range of exciting, intriguing white and red wines. Instilled with a great sense of community, collaboration is another of its cornerstones and, via its ‘Wine People’ project, Teliani Valley empowers individual Georgian winemakers who would otherwise lack the support to get their wines to market, with the series’ 2021 edition focusing purely on women winemakers.
Here we have the first Georgian winery to attain Best in Show accolades at the Decanter World Wine Awards two years in succession (2019 and 2020), with two indigenous, single varietal wines, Kisi and Rkatsiteli, each scoring 97 points and both fermented and matured in qvevri; a process which directly links Teliani Valley to the genesis of winemaking in Georgia.
Qvevri–handmade clay vessels similar to amphora – represent a notably historic and intrinsic strand of the country’s folklore, however their continued use at Teliani Valley is not merely a token gesture to the past, as chief winemaker Mikheil Khmelidze explains: ‘Besides its 8,000 years of history, this technique allows our indigenous grapes to fulfil their potential, expressing the essence of each and every terroir, giving the wines their amber colour, full body, spiced fruits and velvety tannins. Furthermore, being buried in the ground, qvevri preserves the wine at an ideal, uniform temperature which doesn’t require extra intervention.’
‘For us, winemaking is an act of resistance and a gateway to the soul,’ states Khmelidze. ‘It is defiant and defining. Sharing and tasting wine forges a direct connection to the unspoilt land and to history, where the whole world of wine is a gateway to an inner peace, an awakening of the soul.’
Certainly, with its devotion to both the grapes and methodologies that remain in the blood of Georgian wine, as well as the championing of the country’s unheralded, artisanal winemakers, Teliani Valley is managing to carve out a brave future for both itself and its homeland, while at the same time remaining guardians of the country’s heritage.
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