Lapati Wines is the joint project of French-born Guillaume Gouerou and Vincent Jullien. The two men met originally at the Art Villa Garikula, a Center for Contemporary Arts in Georgia. Vincent was there to realize his first experiments of natural sparkling wine with grapes from the villa and Guillaume was invited as an artist. They completed their Marani (traditional Georgian cellar) in Sagarejo, Kakheti in 2015 and currently produce about 3,500 bottles. Natural sparkling wines comprise more than half their production.
About half of the grapes comes from their own vines in Kakheti and Shida Kartli. The remainder comes from growers who are also farming organically. They only buy what is necessary to allow them to fully fill the four one-ton qvevris they have buried in the marani. They intend to eventually increase the production but not beyond 10,000 bottles as they want to personally handle all aspects of production.
The Saperavi Super Ravi (in French, the word “ravi” means “happy”) cuvée is made by placing whole clusters of Saperavi from the village of Mukuzani into two qvevris. After sealing the qvevris with clay, the wine ferments for 2 weeks with carbonic-acid gas. There is not much compression in a qvevri so this carbonic maceration is particularly gentle. After 2 weeks, the qvevris are opened, everything is destemmed, crushed, then the final juice goes to age into one qvevri. The 2016 vintage was bottled directly from qvevri in March of 2017.
Their naturally sparkling wines are bottled under the Kidev Erti label. It means “one more” in Georgian and sounds like the French phrase “qui divertit” literally, “what entertains”. The wines are indeed entertaining and irresistible. Both the pale Chinuri and rosy cross of red Tavkveri and white Gorula are from Shida Kartli vineyards and underwent the same vinification. Fruit harvested in mid October was foot trodden in a traditional satsnakheli (canoe shaped press hewn from a single tree trunk) and poured into qvevri. After 2 weeks the wines were bottled at sugar levels that would give 6 bars of pressure.
Vincent suspects Georgian yeast produces more gas because they use Champagne glass and still have bottles that exploded through March when the pressure was greatest. These cellar bombs are what inspired the 2016 labels, which change annually to reflect something specific about the vintage. Ultimately, the wines were clarified and the pressure reduced during hand disgorging. A messy affair that includes a fair bit of loss justified only by the elegance and transparency of the resultant wines.