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Monday, December 3, 2012

Teliani Valley: The best wine is the next I make

Marc Dworkin. Photo: Financial
03.12.2012. Georgian traditional winemaking meets modern French know-how in a bottle under the brand name Teliani Valley. “Winemaking is a constant process of searching. A good winemaker always fusses, looks for different tastes and in addition, stays true to centuries-old Georgian traditions,” Marc Dworkin and Simon Megutvnishvili, winemakers at the leading Georgian wine company Teliani Valley.

“Georgia is unique, with a unique combination of climate-soil-varietal that doesn’t exist in any other part of the world and never will do,” Dworkin said. The Financial interviewed Marc Dworkin and Simon Megutvnishvili today. Composer, painter, archaeologist, journalist, hunter are those professions to which winemakers are compared. “A true winemaker is akin to Marco Polo”, Megutvnishvili said.

Q. How much is the winemaker responsible actually for in the production of high quality wine?

SM: Winemaking is a constant process of searching. A good winemaker always fusses, looks for different tastes and in addition, stays true to centuries-old Georgian traditions. Just as you journalists look for good writing material, sensations and try to produce different and interesting, innovative material; at the same time you protect the code of journalists. It is the same with winemakers. Our success is in the success of the wine.

MD: A winemaker is an artist. He takes what nature gives him, he takes care of the grapes as much as he can, and that way the fruit gets better.

Q. What have Georgian winemakers taught you and what have you shared with them?

SM: Marc is mostly working on the Georgian-French series. I make traditional Georgian wine. I keep in hand traditions and an enormous love of vines. I know Georgian taste and nature.

Marc better understands European tastes and the needs of foreign markets. He helps us in establishing modern technologies.

MD: Simon taught me a lot about Georgian Grapes and about traditional Georgian winemaking that is very old and different from other methods. He knows and understands the character of Georgian wine. I myself am trying to invent new European technologies. And this combination is I think very successful.

Q. Which profession would you liken winemaker to?

SM: A true winemaker is a composer, director, painter, journalist, hunter, maybe also a fisher, writer, poet, archaeologist; a winemaker is Marco Polo.

MD: Honestly, a painter.

Q. What tests has winemaking passed? What is the last word in winemaking?

SM: Georgian winemaking has passed numerous tests. With its quality it proudly stands next to French and Italian wines. As for the last word, the winemaking process is a constant search that never ends.

MD: There is no last word! Only the next vintage!

Q. What makes Georgian wine different from others?

SM: We Georgians love wine in a different way. We respect traditions. Wine is our pride and our symbol. Georgians have an 8,000 year old tradition of producing wine and over 500 varieties of vines. We have a unique tradition of making wine in pitchers. The difference of our climate brings a different taste to the grapes. All this results in a different and most appreciated taste. You should love Georgian wine. For me it is the most holy.

MD: Georgian wines are different depending on their climate, their soils, their altitude, and their varietals.

Q. Global climate change has become a big challenge for modern winemaking. Do you already feel its impact and how do you plan to adapt to it?

SM: We still have a good climate to get the best grapes.

MD: I think nature can still be gorgeously generous, as in 2011, and terribly jealous and stingy, as in 2012.

Q. France has big traditions of winemaking. What makes French wine different and what innovations have you offered to Georgians in that respect?

MD: In fact, it is a story of a mentor, Michel Rolland, who changed the concept and approach to the ripeness of the fruits. He was my teacher in the early ‘90s and then, with my own experience, I have tried to adapt what I learnt and what I experienced. I don’t think French winemakers are that different.

Q. Tell us about yourselves please: what is your age, education, work experience?

SM: I am 43, am married and have two children. I am a graduate of the Agricultural University of Georgia, a winemaking technologist. I have been working at Teliani Valley since 1997.

MD: I am 51, married, with four children. I have been working as an independent consultant for ten years, after fifteen years of working in Classified Growths in Bordeaux. I am a consultant for wineries in Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Israel, India and China.

Q. What influenced you to choose the profession of winemaker?

SM: From my school age I tried to make Kakhetian wine. I first made wine at the age of eight. My uncle worked as a winemaker for many years, this is a family tradition and I wanted to develop it. I have a vineyard at Tsinandali and I press out at least two tons of wine annually. The whole of Kakheti waits for my wine.

MD: As I already said, having the chance to work with Michel Rolland. As well as that, always having a wish to learn more and to share the passion.

Q. What’s your brewing/winemaking secret?

SM: The secret is in searching and following traditions.

MD: I cannot tell you because I would lose my job.

Q. How would you compare Georgia to other countries, especially France, Italy and Spain, as the three leading wine producing countries worldwide?

MD: It is the wrong idea to always want to compare Georgia with other countries. Georgia is unique, with a unique combination of climate-soil-varietal. It doesn’t exist in any other part of the world and never will do.

Q. Which is your favourite Georgian wine and why do you like it?

SM: Mukuzani is my favourite red and Tsinandali - white. They suit me well.

MD:  The best Georgian wine is the next I will make.

Q. Teliani Valley has accepted prizes at various international festivals. What makes this wine different?

SM: The success of Teliani Valley wine is the result of the whole team that has been involved in this company for years. Each process is equally important: from taking care of the vineyard to its realization.

MD: The continuous caretaking of all the teams in the winery.

Q. How many sorts of grapes are used by Teliani Valley?

SM: Rkatsiteli, Tsolikouri, Mtsvane, Saperavi, Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Ojaleshi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Tsitska, Kisi - these are the main sorts of grapes that we use.

Q. How would you describe Georgia’s wine drinking culture compared to that of your native country, France?

SM: Georgian wine-drinking culture is different. We do not like to drink alone, we can come together in a celebration simply over good wine. Georgia is the only country that has the official position of ‘Tamada’. Georgians can always tell a bad wine.

MD: I always knew Georgia was at the origin of Vitis Vinifeare. The origin and native place of the vine! I always respected this country for that.

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