Ojaleshi 1912 — A story centuries in the making
Written by Graeme Brandham, Head of Communications at WiV Technology.
On the north-eastern slopes of the Kvibia Mountains lies a village, 250m above sea level on the left bank of the Tekhuri river. Surrounded by enigmatic waterfalls, steep gorges, and mountainous valleys. This village is Salkhino, and accompanying it just further to the south is the ancient monastic town of Martvili, with some historical structures dating back to around 1000 years ago, including a chateau from the 1800s, a fascinating church, and an accompanying 35x10 meter wine cellar on the site.
This village is a special place for many reasons, but Georgia is home to many wine-growing regions. Towns and villages with a rich history and many noteworthy attributes. So what does Salkhino have that sets it apart?
This place has something special, an unusual prized wine has been made here that is perhaps rarer than any other I have come across in my time as a wine geek. Because this village is the home of Ojaleshi wine, and in particular, the Ojaleshi wine made by the monks of the Salkhino Monastery. This very same wine is one that is now available through CharityBuzz as an NFT minted by WIV and a deliverable physical wine. All the proceeds from the auction of this exceptional wine will be going to charity.
Aged roughly to 1912, this fine bottle is just as collectible as an artifact as it is a wine, and whoever finds themselves the proud owner of this treasure will find themselves in an elite club. More notable even perhaps than owning a famous artwork or being a BTC whole-coiner in the future.
The story of this wine begins all the way back when the accompanying church was first erected. Reputed to be the first stone church in the region, it stood for well over 900 years with its wine cellar and monastic site alongside. Grapes were cultivated here at this time for the monastic wine, and it had a rich tradition of using Olajeshi. Later on, in its life, the estate became the location for a modest royal chateau, which was erected in the 1820s for one of Georgia’s Queens who was in mourning for her husband. This chateau was later renovated in the 1850s into a two-story stone palace to offer a place for the rich to come be entertained and indulge themselves in food and revelry.
The Ojaleshi wine being grown here had quite an international reputation in the 18th century. Prince Achille Murat, the grandson of one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s marshals, and cousin to Napoleon III, played a key role in this acclaim. He was a huge fan of the region, even marrying a Dadiani princess. The Dadiani house was a notable Georgian family of nobles, dukes, and princes that maintained a ruling dynasty over the western Georgian province of Samegrelo or Odishi. Murat stayed and began cultivating Ojaleshi grapes on the site using European techniques. Legends suggest he cut down around 15 acres of trees to plant the new vineyard, and it later became a location where he hosted his cousin Napoleon III, the first president of France, several times. A few years later, Murat sent bottles of Ojaleshi to an international tasting competition in Paris, where the wine was awarded the Grand Prix, the highest award available.
Sadly in the early 20th century during the Soviet era, the church was destroyed and the palace fell into disrepair and neglect. The wine cellar nearby lay forgotten along with a buried treasure in its ruins. But thankfully, its cultural significance has led to the restoration of the church in 2007, which is now managed by the nearby monks of the Salkhino monastery. The palace has been renovated and rejuvenated again, and is now used as the temporary residence of the Georgian orthodox patriarch when he visits the region.
When the monks of the Salkhino monastery took over the estate, they also restored the wine cellar still there to its 18th-century glory, combining French architecture on the ground floor with traditional 12th-century Georgian architecture below ground. The cellar is now home to over 3000 bottles of Ojaleshi, some old preserved bottles, and some new ones that have been stored in the cellar since 2007.
This rich history has culminated in what we will be auctioning very soon. An Ojaleshi wine that has been dated back to 1912!!
This miracle of a wine was discovered in a Qvevri when the monastery was being restored. Still in excellent condition due to the natural preservation alcohol brings to the mix and the sealed nature of the Qvevri. The wine was bottled in 2007 and has since been tended diligently by the monks of Salkhino monastery to make sure it is aged in the bottle carefully and maintained properly in the old cellar.
There are few people alive today who can claim to be as old as this wine. It has survived the political upheaval, it has remained undetected all this time. A literal buried treasure.
The Auction will begin on 10/19/21 and can be found here
Good luck bidding, remember everything goes towards charity, and that you could be the lucky one to snap up a historical artifact, a piece of art, and a rare collectible wine all in one bottle-shaped package.
In the next piece we will go into the Ojaleshi grape and the wine it produces in order to fully ascertain what you will be buying in terms of Georgian heritage, and in terms of collectible wine.