In Georgia, there are only two natural wine ventures led by French. Accidentally, both specialize in sparklings. While Ori marani aims traditional méthode champenoise, Lapati advocates ancestral pétillant naturel. In 2012, Vincent Jullien vinified the very first Georgian pet-nat in the Garikula village. That is where he met his future partner-in-wine, Guillaume Gouerou.
A voluntary inspection of NWA vineyards boosted Vincent assurance in natural wine. Lapati was established in proximity to Tbilisi, in Sagarejo. Nestled in the heart of the Manavi appellation, it is famous for white Mtsvane. “I find biodynamic principles to be relevant in our vineyards and the cellar,” says Vincent, “Some facts are justified by pure logic, others are not, i.e. one does not drink maturing wine when the weather is cloudy and rainy, because the wine closes and will not reveal itself.”
Lapati owns a hectare of vines, tended on alluvial soils of lower Sagarejo. Here, Rkatsiteli is co-planted with Buera, which adds floral complexity to the final white blend. “Guillaume and I train these vines in double Guyot with up to 10 buds. We remove unwanted buds (ebourgeonnage) from Buera to reduce yield and concentrate flavours.” Their white Chacalix is a classic Kakhetian amber wine with eight months of skin-contact in qvevri, sizeable tannins and distinctive note of apricot pit.
When others apply herbicides in the vineyard, Vincent simply cuts grass and weeds. In the 2000s, Bayer and Syngenta heavily marketed artificial pesticides and fertilizers in Georgia. “Chemicals were sold for nothing and peasants were given a calendar, so they just sprayed vineyards as many times as it was written, in any weather, without a second thought,” laments Vincent. Besides, climate change seriously affects Georgian wine: “When I started, locals chaptalized the wine, now they add artificial tartaric acid to balance elevated alcohol.”
Despite considerable investment in modern equipment countrywide, the most efficient way to make correct wine in Georgia is still in qvevri. “It gives structure to wine due to its womb shape and arising Brownian motion which causes natural battonage,” says Vincent. The downside though that it does not aid natural wine clarification, so periodical racking is important.
Furthermore, Lapati advances in reductive natural winemaking in qvevri. Direct-pressed must is left with some lees and qvevri are cleaned not too early to avoid unnecessary oxygenation: “Wine is fragile, so we mature it overwinter. Tartaric salts precipitate and following soutirage is essential in the spring.”
With white Mtsvane and red Saperavi cluters, Vincent conducts carbonic maceration. It reduces malic acid and its remainder is further zeroed by conversion to lactic acid. Lab tests assure that it prevents bacterial spoilage. “Hygiene is crucial. Something is catastrophically wrong if wine smells mushrooms and camembert. Once our Tetris turned mousy and had to be discarded. Liming and re-waxing of qvevri every three years eliminates spoilage risk, and wine comes out correct again,” he says. Tetris wine is made with Mtsvane grapes from the Manavi micro-zone. In 2020, destemmed grapes macerated in contact with skin: “We aim to make aromatics even sharper, so we push our experiment further.” As all Lapati still wines, it overwinters in qvevri for more than seven months.
Originated in Beaujolais in the 70s, prolonged whole grape bunches maceration under carbonic gas was championed by Jules Chauvet and his followers, natural winemakers in Beaujolais. Vincent continues the French tradition with Saperavi. The grapes are bought-in from the neighboring natural winemaker, Tedo’s marani. After harvest, bunches macerate in closed qvevri flushed with inert carbonic gas for 10 days without pigeage. “It helps the extraction of colour and flavours, but no tannins. Carbonics makes our Saperavi drinkable and enjoyable.” Indeed, labelled as Super Ravi, the wine is fresh and light with red berry profile.
The sparkling petillant naturel range is represented by the Kidev Erti label. Grapes hail from the Okami village, a lieu-dit for Chinuri, Gorula (Goruli Mtsvane) and red Tavkveri grape varietals. The Kakhetian, amber version of a pet-nat is produced from Rkatsiteli which spends four days in contact with skins. Some of the bottles rest in a cool cellar for years and gain vivid complexity resembling fine Champagne.
Lapati production tops 8000 bottles annually, with almost half sparkling. Mostly exported to the U.S., still and sparkling styles are genuinely spirited and fresh.
Locally: natural wine bars (Poliphonia, Azarpesha, Ghvino Underground, DADI).
Abroad: the US (Terrell Wines), the UK (Proper Natural Wine), the Netherlands (Vaime Wines), Germany (Naturwein-georgien.de), Sweden (Rosforth & Rosforth), France (Clos du Tue Boeuf), Japan (Nonna & Sidhi), Australia (Vinous Solutions), Israel (Asis Wild wines).
At fairs: Amerimeri (Georgia, Kutaisi), Zero Compromise (Georgia, Tbilisi), New Wine Festival (Georgia, Tbilisi).
Call Vincent at: +995-558-94-30-16. Mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org