It's a sunny Sunday leading up to harvest, the air is crisp but the sun still has warmth, and visiting Iago Bitarishvili in Chardakhi, Georgia.
He greets us warmly and shows us to his qvevri, almost a dozen of varying sizes, they are being washed clean with a water and lime mix in preparation for the harvest in two weeks. There are no pumps or hoses used for this job, just a course cherry bark scourer and bowl-like vessel connected to two sticks which is used to scoop the water out of the large qvevri.
Iago makes just one wine, a skin contact wine from the white Chinuri variety. The grapes are hand harvested in mid-October and the whole bunches are added to a long wooden press that resembles a canoe, the free run juice is diverted into the waiting qvevri. The pressed bunches of grapes are then layered in also. The wine will spend its life inside the qvevri with its skins and stems until the following spring. A long cool ferment begins naturally and will usually be completed by the end of November as winter arrives in earnest. The skins fall to the bottom of the qvevri and the long stabilization period begins.
In the spring the qvevri lids are lifted and the wine, now a golden amber hue is removed from its lees and bottled.
The 2015 has purity and delicate florals and pear fruits. A chamomile tea aroma weaves between the spiced pear and lightly bruised apple nose. The palate calls to mind jasmine green tea, the tannins firm but silky and approachable.
Iago's wine sells out entirely on release in May, when asked about increasing his production he replies thoughtfully 'but I am happy with amount I have and the work I do, if I were too expand I would need more fruit, more qvevri and more help, the wine may change and my life may not be as happy.'