Almost every single family in Georgia makes wine in the qvevri but under the Soviet regime, it became illegal to bottle and sell, so Iago did not start to do this till 2003. He has always worked organically here and has always been passionate about preserving the local traditions. He is, therefore, a bona fide qvevri wine maker although that is a complete contradiction in terms as in Georgia, it is believed that nature and the great clay jugs make the wine. Man is just a facilitator; moving things around and making sure that everything has exactly what it needs to function happily and healthily.
Iago works with only one variety – Chinuri. With this skin contact wine, there is only gentle crushing before the whole bunches go into Qvevri for 3 – 6 months. Sunk into the stone floor, the perfectly round O’s of the Qveri entrances gape widely. The yeasts here are strong and busy; starting their work almost immediately the grapes are crushed – usually in mid October. Once fermentation is well under way, the cap is broken up at least twice a day. When fermentation is finished, the vessels are filled to the brim while Iago waits for the secondary, malolactic fermentation to begin. Around December, a large flint stone or a piece of glass is used to cover up the entrance which is then sealed.
Iago has some new Qvevri but also those which are 300 years old. He explains that the opening of one is always a special and noteworthy occasion and the official opener person is tasked not only with the opening but also with saying the name of the person or occasion which it is being opened for. Some buy a Qvevri for their child at birth, to be opened at the wedding. In Georgia it seems, little to do with the drinking of wine is allowed to proceed without some flourish which officially marks the occasion.
This wine has a very pleasing viscosity held in check by a lean, mineral element, something akin to roughly hewn stone about it, with flavours of honeyed spice, and textured layers.