European Food Summit - Ketevan Berishvili – from Georgia with love

Ketevan Berishvili – from Georgia with love

Ljubljana, 7. 2. 2020

When it comes to organic, especially skin contact wine, Georgia is one of those destinations that should be on every natural wine lover’s list.

This former Soviet republic flanked by majestic Caucasus mountains on one side and Black sea on the other is not only home to a whopping 525 (!) indigenous grape varieties, but it’s also considered the birthplace of wine.

The archaeologists have traced the world's first known wine back to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000 BC – these early Georgians discovered grape juice could be turned into something much more exciting (and intoxicating) by burying it underground for the winter.

And to this day they kept this legacy alive, together with the know-how and the tradition of making wine in huge clay amphoras, known here as “qvevri”. It wasn’t easy, though. Back in the Soviet times when the aim was to produce large quantities of cheap, commercial wine for the masses, the tradition of making qvevri wine almost died out – despite the fact Russians loved Georgian wine and still have great affinity for it.

Out of those 525 sorts only four were available commercially in the Soviet times and many of the best winemaking regions and positions were abandoned, because they preferred to spread the vineyards in the valleys, where they could squeeze more from the vines. At the height of this mass production the biggest Georgian wine cellars produced a whopping 18 million bottles of wine a year. But it wasn’t the traditional kind – qvevris were practically forbidden, replaced by big tanks and oak barrels that added that extra oakiness.

Luckily, Georgia has vast countryside with plenty of small homesteads and tiny, family wineries where they kept producing their wine for personal consumption the old ways, in kvevris, buried underground in their cellars. And the art of magical qvevri wine has been preserved.

One of those families are the Berishvilis, small, boutique wine producers located in the Naprauli zone in the Kakheti region, right in the heart of Georgian wine country.

30-year-old Ketevan Berishvili learned the ropes of organic winemaking business from her father Kakha Berishvili. First she just helped out, but slowly, she got sucked in and made her very first vintage in the family cellar in 2015 under the name GOGO Wine. A juicy rosé made with the local grape varieties of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi.

The grapes are farmed entirely with the use of biodynamic preparations and transported by horse from the vineyards to the cellar where they are fermented together in qvevris.

Before abandoning her urban life and moving to the countryside Ketevan studied French philosophy, lived in France for a while and got her MA degree in PR management from Georgian Institute of Public Affairs.

But since she never really felt that particular career path is right for her, she left, moved to the village of Artana where her father owns the vineyards and threw herself with heart and soul into winemaking. She bought an additional vineyard and is now also exporting abroad.  

And for her, she’s only at the beginning. She is looking to see what the future has in store for her, and hoping she can lead by example and open the doors for more women-led businesses in the wine industry.