Sometimes context is everything.
“Meskhuri Tetri 2015” from Natenadze’s Wine Cellar isn’t a bottle that fits the “crowdpleaser” or “glou-glou” epiphets. It’s a delicate, shy creature with hidden depths and unexpected pungency. Intriguing, but then?
Once you discover it was made from almost extinct grape varieties grown at well over 1,000 metres of altitude, painstakingly hand-harvested from wild vines up to 400 years old, the liquid takes on a unique almost mythical stature. And there’s more.
Giorgi Natenadze lives in Samtskhe-Javakheti, historically known as Meskheti, the southerly part of Georgia that borders Turkey. An important wine region in antiquity, Meskheti was ransacked by invading Ottomans (who destroyed all its vineyards about 400 years ago) and then throttled by the Soviet Union which preferred to concentrate viticulture in easterly Kakheti. Natenadze decided in 2009 to try to reclaim some of the area’s heritage.
As he puts it, “I have spent much of the past decade traipsing through mountain forests in search of ancient vines growing the way nature intended — up trees. I have found some vines that are more than 100 years old and one that I reckon is more than 400 years old. I have uncovered 40 rare grape varieties in the forests in the south of the country, near the border with Turkey, but I have only been able to identify 24 of them so far. Each year I make a different wine from these ancient varieties at Natenadze’s Wine Cellar”.
So that Meskhuri Tetri 2015 then? It’s made in a time-honoured fashion, in qvevris with around 4-6 months of skin contact. The varieties are Akhaltsikhuri tetri, Meskhuri Mtsvane, Udis Tetri, Chitiskvertskha Tetri. Texturally it’s very light and silky, with scents of wildflowers and green plums. The flavours are more herbaceous and grassy, a little reminiscent of wild tarragon or sage. There’s a cold climate character, one might even say a quite alien character. Who after all has ever tasted Akhaltsikhuri or Udis Tetri?
After years of making wines from these wild treasures (in quantities sometimes as little as a single bottle), Natenadze embarked on a significant vine planting project in 2016, replanting some 30 hectares of ancient terraces that had lain barren for centuries. It’ll be more than fascinating to taste the results in a few years’ time.
In the meantime, Natenadze’s wines are available in a few European countries plus Japan. Contact him for delivery anywhere in Europe.