73 year-old Shota Natroshvili has seen a great deal in his life. One of his destiny's twists turned him into a winemaker. The 1990s civil war in Georgia caused considerable destruction and deprived him of a job in the Intourist hotel. Recovery came after at the turn of the millennium, which gave Shota a chance to manage vineyards of agricultural corporations. The idea of Ibero followed.
Today, Ibero manages two hectares of ten-year-old Rkatsiteli and Khikhvi vines with two and a half hectares more of twenty-year-old Saperavi with some white Khikhvi, Mtsvane and Kisi varieties co-planted. Contact preparations of sulphur and Bordeaux mixture are applied in the vineyards. One day Shota hopes to have sufficient funds to apply for organic certification, though production volume does not justify the investment yet. Selling grapes to larger producers before 2012, the family decided to start its own bottling to control the manufacturing process till the final consumer.
In a beautiful winery nestled on the hilly side of the Vachnadziani village, Ibero holds six kvevri with some up to 120 years old. During harvest and wine fermentation, only family members are allowed into the cellar. With the new building construction next door, the estate shapes well into the modern boom of wine tourism.
All the wines are made with no stalks and pips involved, as Shota has no favour to derived components. “Woody stems of grape clusters and grape pips give out astringent tannins and bitter essential oils, which I try to avoid in our wine,” he says. What really impresses here though, is the family’s honesty. With no disguise, Shota confirms that they produce natural wines with use of bentonite, a natural clay agent to aid wine clarification: “It is problematic to find good materials these days. We always try to acquire local bentonite from Kutaisi in Western Georgia.”
After the wine is finally racked from qvevri, a mix of ash with soda is used to clean them and keep the vessels clean and sound. In case laboratory analyses or organoleptic tasting of wine directly from the amphoras reveals possible spoilage risk, the qvevri are lime-washed and left empty for a few months to be ready by the next vintage.
As for the still wines, Ibero releases two whites and one red. White Rkatsiteli 2019 reveals a light body with honeyed, nutty and apricot notes. Harvesting around two tons of white Khikhvi every vintage, crushed grapes stay in contact with skins during three to four months depending on organoleptic tasting. With 12% of alcohol, Khikhvi demonstrates approachable and a lighter version of this potentially heavy-lifter grape. The only produced red is a varietal Saperavi. Here again, vintage 2019 demonstrates a light profile of the wine coupled with blackberry jam and ripe red fruits nuances.
Currently, some Ibero wines are sold in Georgia in local shops and markets as table wine from tap. As for Italians in southern provinces, for Georgeans it is a form of habitual consumption as well. It will take the nation a while to step up the ladder and shift to bag-in-box and pouch instead.
Shota's grandson, Shotiko Natroshvili is a young talented Georgian watercolor painter, graduated oenology from Tbilisi Agricultural University and apprenticed in Hochschule Geisenheim in Hessen, Germany. Working as an assistant winemaker to Patrick Honnef in Chateau Mukhrani, Shota is Ibero's aspiration for future expansion and wine premiumisation.
Participating in the drawing competition in Portugal, Shota visited a Port producer, who paid them a return visit and intrigued Shota with his high-alcohol, opulent and fruitful wine. Ever since, Ibero has produced fortified versions of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi. Resembling white and ruby Port styles, these wines are a great digestive drink. Overall, the Ibero wines are ready-to-drink and inexpensive.
Locally: Tbilisi’s wine shops.
Abroad: the UK (8000vintages.co.uk).
At fairs: New Wine Festival (Tbilisi, Georgia).
Call Shota at: +995-551-10-44-55. Mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org