In the village of Kurdgelauri in Kakheti, you’ll find Mikheil Chonishvili making wine under the name Chona’s Marani. The Chonishvili family has been making wine for generations- Mikheil can’t remember a time in his life without wine. It’s ubiquitous, like a member of the family. It wasn’t until 2014 that their wines were available to the public, when Mikheil founded the company- Marani meaning cellar- Chona, his nickname. They planted 1.5 ha of indigenous grapes- Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi- & have since added Kisi and Chinuri. They farm organically, using no pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard, and wines are fermented with stems and skins in Qvevri. All of the vineyard work, from picking to labeling the bottles, is done by members of the family.
Wine in Georgia occupies a significant space, going beyond existing as a product, a beverage, but an indelible piece of cultural heritage. Georgians have been making wine for over 8,000 years, its presence a positive constant in a history rife with struggle and hardship. Winemaking and folk music are inseparable- the former inspiring the latter, and polyphonic folk songs a staple as the supra, the traditional Georgian meal serving as the center of Georgian social life. All manner of toasts at the supra are intermixed with songs as increasingly bountiful courses are served, glasses of wine enjoyed, the act a link to past generations breaking bread. Georgian tradition and folk songs inspired Mikheil to bring the wine to the public, and he’s pleased to exist in a world combining his two loves: wine and music. A folk singer himself- we thank Mikheil for sharing his songs with us, recorded over 20 years ago.
Mikheil’s Rkatsiteli-Chinuri is alluring- dry with firm tannins, leaning into whiskey/calvados territory in its sweet/sharp palate- if whiskey is a flowing river, this is a babbling brook. Honey, apples, apricots, it’s an ideal pre/post-dinner bottle, perf for briney, fatty bites. It’s a joy to take part in these wines that play such an important role in Georgian life- in these times of deep isolation, longing for community, family, and friends, you can close your eyes, and with Mikheil’s songs and wine, feel a little of that warmth again.