Nikoladzeebis Marani, which translates as Nikoladzes’ Wine Cellar, is the producer name you will see on wine bottles, but a lot of people will be more familiar with the name of the winemaker-owner Ramaz Nikoladze. Like Archil Guniava and his family, who we had visited previously on of our tour, Ramaz is a man of Imereti, and was making and selling wine locally before it occurred to him to bottle it and sell further afield. But Ramaz went a bit further. He was a bit of ringleader in persuading his fellow Imereti winemakers to set their sights on Tbilisi and beyond, and was also one of the founding members of the co-operative that kicked off the Tbilisi wine bar Ghvino Underground, a place that gave these wines showcase and market.
It was his wife, Nestan, who warmly welcomed us, showed us the new marani in an outhouse, and gave us lunch. We only got to see Ramaz briefly, as he was busy dealing with urgent business most of the day: he had to spray his vines, but there was a problem with the equipment. Archil had been spraying Bordeaux mixture, so presumably the same task was what Ramaz had in mind.
The new marani was created a few years ago with new qvevri, as shown in the film Our Blood is Wine. Indeed, I included a still from the documentary in my review, showing Ramaz helping to roll one of the qvevri into place. But when we were visiting, the qvevri were full, sealed with glass discs and covered in sand, the smaller pots above ground being for temporary storage of wine. We were told that bottling would take place in a few weeks’ time.
Then we were invited into the cool and spacious dining room of Nestan and Ramaz’s house, for lunch and the opportunity to try four different Nikoladzeebis Marani wines.
I think all wines were from 2016, and below I have identified the wines by their varieties. More very brief notes I am afraid, but the wines I liked most are clearly indicated by my star ratings.
No skin contact. The grapes came from Ramaz’ uncle’s vineyard. Pale gold. Intense, fresh, aromatically grapey. Medium acid. No tannin. Delicate ***
3 months skin contact. Pale gold. Intense, fresh, aromatically grapey. Medium acid. Medium low tannin. Fresh and vibrant. Aromas more intense on the palate *****
90% Aladasturi, 10% Dzelshavi
Not yet bottled. Medium purple. Intense fresh dark fruit. Medium high acid. Medium tannin ******
Not yet bottled. Medium purple ruby. Intense and fresh. Medium acid. Low tannin ***