Dr. Erekle (Eko) Glonti is the name to remember. Meticulous approach to every detail in natural winemaking brought his wines on the tables of European Michelin-star restaurants and the top British wine merchants' shelves. His varietal Tsolikouri and Otskanuri Sapere particularly stand out.
Wine and bread were the main food elements of the local diet for centuries. Starting Eastern Roman Empire, habitants of the Kingdom of Iveria (the central-eastern part of Georgia nowadays) locked between Turkey and Persia, were called “those who have never stopped eating and drinking.” Eko comments that these days people have forgotten the true value of the good food: “Making a hamburger from bread equals producing bulk wine from grapes.”
As every Georgian, Eko has been drinking wine from childhood: “My parents always had good wine at home. We never consumed mediocre quality drinks”. He continues, “When a doctor prescribes one to stop consumption of harmful food, he is right. Bread and wine can be toxic, because we have made them so.” Yet, Lagvinari wines are different. In his late fifties, Eko affords lunches heartened by a couple of glasses. “Holistic approach is the key. Grape stems and skins keep all the necessary vitamins and minerals. We need these amino-acids,” he asserts.
Working as an anesthesiologist, one time Eko left the surgery center and never returned. As he explains, “The 1990s in Tbilisi were the rough times, dynamic and rather chaotic. The country was corrupted and it was impossible to advance in such conditions.” He decisively adjusted his professional interest to the current circumstances and became a geologist. “I was stunned. My workmates examined the soil as I did my patients. A few glances at a field sufficed to pass a verdict on lack of common elements,” he recalls.
Owing to the fact that he acquired considerable scientific background, during his field trips he tried to discuss with peasants the right ways to plant and grow vines. The winegrowers refused to account for his sincere comments. “I dashed wines aside. But later I realised that I wish to make wine on my own. I craved the wines from my childhood.” So when Isabelle Legeron MW contacted him to facilitate her wine series about the Georgian natural wine made in qvevri, he accepted immediately. “That crazy French woman”, the founder of RAW WINE appeared at the very right moment to aid Eko to establish his ardour for winemaking.
Mr Glonti takes on a biodynamic approach in the vineyards in a rational way: “I’m not in favour of anybody or any regimen. Homeopathy can be a needle in a haystack. If you will not make it eventually right, you might look pathetic.” Recent 2020 vintage faced him with a powdery mildew outbreak in Imereti, the region where his Tsitska and Tsolikouri grapes are grown. Even though the contractual winegrowers applied experimental amounts of soap solution and milk as possible remedies, it did not save all the crop. “Trials are always hit-or-miss. But better a mistake at the beginning than in the end” he reasons. Yet, his Imeretian whites are gorgeously amber with spicy and earthy bouquet, ideal to enjoy with Southeast Asian cuisine. Above all, Eko values Krakhuna, which affords the opportunity to be served the last, expressing the richest body and delicate honey and candied notes. Aromatic white Kisi comes from a neighboring to the Barbale winery plot in the Argokhi village in the Kakheti region. Bronze in color 2019 Rkatsiteli reveals a classic profile of the variety with pear peel and apricot kernels flavours.
Eko’s blush Aladasturi and ruby Otskhanuri Sapere are from the bastion of natural wine producers, the Sviri appellation where Baia, Gvantsa, Churi Chinebuli and others produce vivacious wines. Lagvinari wines have matured in contact with skins for prolonged time in clay qvevri. “Do you know why the French paradox is not fictional?”, asks me Eko, “Red meat free radicals are eliminated by wine tannins. Nobody says that foie gras is healthy, but people still question the red wine benefits.” Mr Glonti matured his Saperavi 2018 in qvevri with sun-dried grape stems, and with the still integrating woody lignin flavour, the wine holds up the ability to withstand years in the bottle. As the host notes, this red is particularly suitable with Chinese food and especially deep-fried dumplings.
With the purest fractions from maturation vessels combined, Lagvinari wines give voice to the rocks of Georgian wine regions and these stories are definitely deserved to be heard. So Eko ends, “Winemaking should be philosophy not a science. Fermentation is decomposing. But wine is resurrection.”
Locally: Tbilisi’s wine bars and restaurants (8000 vintages, Barbarestan, Wine Gallery, Cafe Littera).
Abroad: Nobu (Worldwide), the USA (NY, CA: Roni Selects), the UK (Georgian Wine Club, Hedonism, The Fat Duck), Germany (Naturwein-Georgien), France, the Baltic States (Latvia: Alaverdi, Locale), Norway, Ukraine (Goodwine), The Russian Federation and Singapore.
At fairs: RAW WINE (Worldwide), Amerimeri (Georgia, Kutaisi), Zero Compromise (Georgia, Tbilisi).
Call Eko at: +995-577-546-006. Mailto: email@example.com
Wine tasting notes are to be found at a separate page.