“I was 10 years old when my father died. So I had to help my mother and tend a tenth of a hectare of vineyards we had. We vinified a classic blend of Kakhetian Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli,” begins Aleksi. As it was more than 50 years ago, today he organically farms two hectares with a half of a hectare of his brother-in-law.
As one of the earliest members of the Georgian Natural Wine Association, Aleksi cultivates the vineyards as the mother taught him, without sprays or artificial fertilizers. Biodynamic approach seemed to be too complicated and cut off from the world, so he just cuts cover crop of wild grasses and weeds on his sandy clay vineyard: “I do not green harvest, because there is no such a need in my vineyard where planting density is twice less than required by the National Wine Agency”. Bottles are sanitized with sulphites, but none is added into the wines.
“We were growing together with Soliko [Tsaishvili]. I had just a hectare of vineyards before the amber movement started, but it supplied way too much for the personal consumption. So Soliko advised me to bottle the wine around 15 years ago. Furthermore, I doubled the vineyard space,” he reminisces. The year 2010 marked the commercial release of the Tsikhelishvili wines which captured the epicurean Japanese. Currently, a major part of the production is sold in Japan.
Aleksi considers cellar work to be the hardest part of his village life: “Viticulture does not take up much time, as contact preparations of copper and sulphur are bare necessities in most of Kakheti. But winemaking is a hell of work.” The tiny underground cellar is loaded with old barrels and shelves with maturing wine bottles. Qvevri-wise, Lekso holds seven vessels for primary fermentation and six for further ageing after racking off the pomace. The wines are vinified together with stems, pips and skins, as Aleksi uses an old crusher which grinds bunches. Most of the bottles see the market after two years in the marani.
Mtsvane grapes originate in the Akhmeta appellation. Lately shipped abroad, light and fragrant Mtsvane 2018 with aromas of hot stone, underwood and ripe quince dispels any fear of natural wine instability. Incredible 2015 vintage was bottled in 2019, with four years maturation in qvevri. Being stunning and absolutely correct, this wine needs to be decanted to be fully appreciated. With a maximum of a thousand bottles annually produced, this is the one not to miss.
His other white variety, Rkatsiteli is co-planted with some indigenous vines of Kharistvala and Khikhvi in the vineyard, so all goes to the final blend. The wine stays three months in skin-contact and is racked to old oak barrels for another eight months. Rkatsiteli 2014 reveals tertiary profile with pleasant oxidative notes and a melange of spices. Despite sporadic summer hails in Kakheti, 2020 was a generous vintage with plenty of the healthy crop. Fetching only 2000 bottles from a hectare, Lekso is always sold out.
Unusually for a Kakhetian producer, the only red of Tsikhelishivili is not classic Saperavi. Produced in minute amounts in Georgia, scarlet in colour Jghia is a finicky variety. With the buds located too close to one another, careful vineyard management is essential. The grapes hail from old vines located in the Akhshani village, across the Alazani river from the cellar. Shy in colour and tannins, light and peppery dark rosé is delightful and easy drinking. The total production of the winery tops four thousand bottles annually depending on vintage conditions. Indeed, Lekso's wines are magnificent and alive.
Locally: Tbilisi’s natural wine bars (Ghvino Underground, G.vino, Living Vino).
Abroad: The US (Black Lamb Wine), Denmark (Rosforth & Rosforth), Germany (Naturwein-Georgien), Japan (Nonna & Sidhi).
Call Aleksi at: +995-595-907-959. Mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org