“I had a plan to join the industry, but I did not think it happens so swiftly”, starts Mikheil, “One day Soliko Tsaishvili from Our Wine tried my Rkatsiteli and uttered ‘Why don't you start commercial bottling, it is delicious!’ So the amber revolution entered my life.”
Burly and reserved, Mikheil Chonishvili is a singer in “Alilo”, the locally renown polyphonic choir. When the right time comes during a festive supper, one won’t be in any doubt about his vocal skills. “Wine was always handy at home,” says Mikheil. The Chonishvili family had a half of hectare under different crops and vinified about a thousand bottles every autumn. The fermentation was in qvevri and a 500 litres Caucasian oak barrel was filled with white Rkatsiteli.
Relationship is essential in Georgia. The Mikheil’s parents are in charge of the marani in wintertime, while the whole family is busy during each harvest. Located in the capital of Kakheti, the winery holds 11 qvevri, ranging from 1100 to 2300 liters. The main two-hectare vineyard nestles in the Kurdghelauri village, the Tsinandali micro-zone, which is famous for balanced white wines. The Chona’s classical trio of local white varieties hails from here, whereas Saperavi is supplied by third-party vinegrowers from Napareuli and Mukuzani designations.
All the vineyards are farmed organically, though not all of them are certified. It does not cost an arm and a leg, but since the wines are exported to the US and Europe under different and sometimes contradicting labelling regulations, Chona relies on quality rather than marketing peculiarities. Unfined and unfiltered, with total sulphites in a bottle under 35 mg/L, the wines are rightfully natural.
In 2019 Chona’s expanded the array of wine styles, including curious Kisi-Mtsvane and Chinuri-Rkatsiteli. The blends have already become available in the States and European countries. Unexpectedly, Chinuri originates in the Kakhetian village of Alaverdi, not in its homeland of the Shida Kartli region. Lifting the breadth of Rkatsiteli, Chinuri adds flirty acidity and herbal freshness to the coupage. The second blend of Kisi-Mtsvane is soft and florally aromatic with hints of plumeria and jasmine.
Producing wines in the daring Kakehtian qvevri style, Chona’s Marani allows stems during Rkatsiteli maturation, as other grape stalks are not mellow enough. “Grab any white Chona and pair it with cheese and walnuts, this would be my classic match”, declares Mikheil. Amber Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane from the 2019 vintage turn out to be ripe and round. With nearly perfect conditions during ripening, the summer delivered grapes with 16% of potential alcohol, which is almost unimaginable for local white varieties. Matured for a year in qvevri with half of the time in contact with skin, Rkatsiteli tastes like melted caramel in the glass, while Mtsvane shows off its full body with a spicy palate. Listed at the recent Georgian wines tasting, the author of Amber Revolution, Simon J Woolf highly appraised the recent vintage.
This year, one more distinctive Rkatsiteli will be added to the wine range as Mikheil was fortunate to receive some grapes as a gift from Zurab Mgvdliashvili, Nikalas Marani. Enough to fill one qvevri, the grapes hail from the Tsarapi microzone. Known for riper phenolics in skins, pips and stems, Rkatsiteli from Kardenakhi-Tsarapi cru is able to stay with pomace even longer and accumulate concentrated flavours. Again, this fact proves the friendship between competing Telavi and Gurjaani towns.
Chona's Saperavi reveals a black ink profile reinforced by substantial tannins. There are 1200 bottles produced and most are allocated so far. Last year marked the split of the only red bottling into two labels. His Saperavi from the Vazisubani village is more complex with considerable ageing potential. The Napareuli village gives out aromatic, mild and approachable wine. Both versions spent 45 days in contact with skins.
From 2017 the finest restaurant Chona's wine appears in is a Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat in Washington. Mikheil aims to reach higher and to expand the production: “The US is my major market so far.” With 13 thousand bottles produced annually and six blends available commercially, Chona's marani is definitely on the way to ascend the natural wine throne.
Locally: Tbilisi’s natural wine bars (8000 vintages, G.vino, Living Vino, Dadi wine bar, Wine Library, Wine Gallery etc.).
Abroad: The US (Georgian Wine House), Italy, Germany (Naturwein-Georgien), Belgium, The Netherlands (Ghvino.nl), Switzerland (NinoVino.ch), Denmark, France (Atelier Vinique), Singapore and Japan.
At fairs: RAW WINE (Worldwide), Amerimeri (Georgia, Kutaisi); Zero Compromise (Georgia, Tbilisi).
Call Mikheil at: +995-599-50-50-06. Mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org