The Natural Wine Association’s new members

The Natural Wine Association’s new members

The NWA’s founding members are very well known to those who love Georgian wine, and the success of their wines is often in the news. Not that long ago, they decided to work together to tackle a variety of problems which could only be solved by their combined efforts. This is how the Natural Wine Association was founded, uniting dozens of small, often family-run wineries.

 

The three words ‘everything or nothing’ could sum up the set of principles which guides natural wine-makers in Georgia. To the NWA’s members, the idea of ‘natural wine’ requires several things:

 

1.    Viticulturists and wine-makers plant and cultivate their vineyards according to the rules and requirements of organic farming. They look after the environment and try to create the most self-sufficient ecosystems possible in their vineyards.

 

2.   Viticulturists and wine-makers do not employ methods or means of making wine which could change its natural and organoleptic characteristics.

 

3.   Viticulturists and wine-makers acknowledge the vital contribution of terroir to the production of a wine, and attempt to reveal its specificities.

 

4.   Wine labels used by viticulturists and wine-makers must always honestly and fully describe a wine’s origins. 

 

At a glance, there’s nothing really complicated about following these principles, but when they begin, wine-makers face many temptations: the systematic use of herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers in their vineyards can vastly increase the quantity of grapes harvested, sometimes even by a factor of ten, but using these preparations deteriorates the quality of the grapes and consequently of the wine, and does great damage to the environment, above all to the soil.

 

The NWA has set itself and imposes upon its members a series of principles even stricter than those of European standards of organic wine-making. By doing so, the association aims to ensure its wines’ absolute quality and health, and at the same time to protect the environment in its members’ vineyards. The association’s guidelines set out a series of special rules for future members, which notably state that an organic viticulturist or wine-maker who also cultivates a conventional (i.e. not organic) vineyard cannot become a member of the association.

 

Ten to fifteen years ago, only a couple of enthusiasts could have imagined that the ancient tradition of making wine in qvevris, which Georgian families have guarded for centuries, would gain international recognition a few years later. The NWA’s founders are, in a way, the pioneers of natural wine in Georgia, and their success continues to inspire more and more producers every year.

 

The increased production of natural wines has encouraged the establishment and development of numerous family-run wine cellars, thereby stimulating not only viticulture and wine-making, but also tourism. This is a wonderful opportunity to breathe life back into villages in desperate need of revival after years of rural exodus, and to create real opportunities for employment in local communities. By increasing the processing of grapes in family-run wine cellars, the government decreases the levels of social discontent which are normally an issue for local and regional authorities during the grape harvest and wine-making season. By busying themselves with the production of natural wines, local farmers who have been waiting for the help and support of the government and industrial wine producers for years could seize the opportunity to become wine-makers themselves and to sell their products both in Georgia and abroad.

 

In the meantime, the number of wine bars and restaurants in Tbilisi which exclusively offer natural, organic wines to their customers has dramatically increased. The very first of them is ‘ღvino Underground’, which primarily stocks and sells wines made by the NWA’s members.

 

Another trend which has gradually emerged and for which demand is growing is the need to make available precise and complete information about natural wines and the wine-makers who produce them. In order to achieve this, the NWA will grant the use of its logo to its members as proof of their membership of the association and of their commitment to organic viticulture and natural wine-making.

 

The NWA’s founding committee is currently considering around 50 applications for membership submitted by small or family-run wine cellars, and expects to be welcoming many new members. Another important task will be inspecting and controlling the quality of members’ vineyards and wines.

 

Information about the association’s activities will be regularly posted on its website, www.nwa.ge.

 

Aleko Tskitishvili