A specialist in jewelry design, Jamal Biyachuev has had a passion for winemaking for over 20 years. Even in St. Petersburg which is located at the same latitude as Norway, he panned out to receive grapes from the South and to vinify Cabernet Sauvignon.
With the bloodline rooted in the Caspian republic of Dagestan, well known in Russia for cognac production, Jamal settled with his family in a 150-year-old Adjarian wooden house which he had to renovate himself. Wine knowledge was acquired through pure practise and is based on intuition and parents’ instructions. Starting the 18th century, the distaff side has always been represented by wine tasters working for Brothers Eliseevs merchants in St. Petersbourg and famed Abrau-Dyurso winery which was established in the 19th century by a decree of Alexander II.
To say the least, the Autonomous Republic of Adjara is a challenging place for winemaking. The region is known for notorious rains with annual precipitation exceeding 3000 mm. One wouldn’t find smoked meats nor jams here. It is a land of tea, citruses and tomatoes grown in highlands. Nevertheless, indigeneous to subtropics light red Chkhaveri and the-most-planted-after-Rkatsiteli white Tsolikouri are grown here, further east from the sea to limit disease pressure in given humidity. The village of Keda and surroundings are known to deliver the most of the wine grapes potential of Adjara. This is where Jamal’s Tsolikouri grapes hail from.
Elevated humidity both in the cellar and outside leave no choice to qvevri, “They are amazing vessels, but during a year in such a climate, its porous structure absorbs unwanted molecules and bacteria from extremely moist soil.” Therefore, the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks which are smoked with sulfites to eliminate initial spoilage risk. The grapes are bought-in for now, which affords a large field for experimentation. The grapes arrive during a chilly night from all over Georgia. Famous Rkatsiteli and Saperavi are from Kakheti, when Tsitska is from the notable village of Terjola in Imereti. Sourced locally, Biyachuev’s 2019 Tsolikouri is a floral glou-glou with an acidic note. Curiously, the grape is likely to be a hybrid with local Shavshura or Brola. But with the entangled Soviet past, no one would surely know.
While neighbors add sugar and alcohol to enhance wine qualities or referment pomace left after wine fermentation for immediate plonk release, Jamal follows a quality and minimal intervention approach: “Wild yeasts always deposit considerable sediment and require a prolonged maturation period”. Held in 2019, a curious blend of Muscatel grapes into white Tsolikouri and red Saperavi ended up in a deeply hued rosé with distinctively perfumed aroma profile of fresh red cherries. A delightful wine, indeed!
As humidity rises, the wine Rubicon comes in May of a year following the harvest. Furthermore, according to Jamal’s experience, if wine may stay for two years in vessels without going off, it will age well indefinitely. He continues, “West Adjarian thin-skin grapes are primarily aromatic. In case I apply the Kakhetian method, it increases risks of oxidation and volatile acidity. Moreover, extracted flavours do not benefit from ripe stems and end up in a rough sensation on the palate.” His 2019 Mtsvane originates in Manavi and was fermented with 30% of skins for 72 hours; matured almost a year in stainless steel, it exhibits a refreshing floral and lime hefty body. The second approach to the grape was experimental and followed carbonic maceration for 50% of the grapes, while the rest was pressed directly with both fractions vinified together. Revealed delicious flavours of white melon and yellow peach dominate this cheerful wine.
Apart from sinewy Saperavi, pale red Aladasturi and Tavkveri unveil the jolly summer style they were produced in. Both come from a neighboring region of Imereti. Aladasturi 2019 bears a slight purple hue with a spicy profile of violet, plum and black cherry. Coral in colour, red Tavkveri stayed on white Mtsvane skins to safeguard wine from spoilage, “Pure juice fermented with indigenous yeast is a rollercoaster in our climate. Skin contact offers reliable protection from the worst of winemaker’s nightmares”.
The first vintage of this nascent winery was in 2018, and the next year production whopped to 10 000 bottles due to direct visitors demand. As 2020 marked the beginning of the pandemic, Jamal produced little wine only for family consumption. With upcoming vintage in September, he sticks to an inspiring plan to add partially dry-stems in Saperavi and make it in traditional Kakhetian style and even more, perhaps to buy old barrels for its further maturation.
With up to a thousand tourists pre-Covid regularly taking a short Mirveti trek through local waterfalls and lush subtropical forestry, J Biyachuev winery hopes to be back on track of wine tourism shortly after pandemic ends. Despite 80% of tourists seeking off-dry wine, Jamal ferments all wines to dryness: “I just try to make them in a lighter style and experiment as much as I can.” No doubt that with such a kind of dedicated winemakers, the region will eventually become a serious wine destination.
Locally: in the cellar, Batumi, Tbilisi (DADI wine bar, Living Vino).
Abroad: Russia (St. Petersbourg and Moscow wine clubs).
Call Jamal at: +995-593-141-479. Mailto: Biachu@ya.ru