England, 17 August 2018,
After a month of lugging my suitcase around Italy, Croatia, a bit of Serbia and Georgia, i got back to England. I told my neighbour J that Georgia had great wine and so did Croatia. “Kate, you have gone to Champagne, Croatia, Italy and Georgia this summer…. I see a pattern here”, J joked on my alcoholic behaviour. I do have a sincere love for good wine.
And so below are some of my wine stories in Georgia
– Kate, so what brings you to Georgia?
– I came for the wine.
We were at Divino, into our third glass of wine or so. The bartender kept pouring one type after another and we wouldn’t care much. We, me and an Italian couple, had been on this physically challenged walking tour of 4 hours around the city, we deserved this. The Italian moaned about the American girl trying to inflict so much of her daily life into the tour. I moaned about the weirdly long stop at the bakery where I had to get myself a mojito (and who ate cheese bread at 5pm?).
This is the start – my first day in Georgia.
I didn’t even know there was such a country till about 2 years ago when I watched a random documentary on Food Network about the birth of Shiraz. Yes,I like wine so much I watched documentary about it. As it turned out, the wine is one of the oldest and was “invented” on the area of Caucasus mountain, in between Iran and Georgia. Nowadays there is no wine making in Iran for religious reason but Georgian people still ferment and bury their wine in big ceramic churns Everyday. That afternoon the name Georgia registered in my head. I did some research and figured the country situated at the end of Silk Road, bordering Russia and share Black Sea with Turkey. I wanted to go there to drink wine one day.
End of June, about 3 days before my month-long trip in Europe, I booked my ticket to Georgia, heading east instead of west from Croatia after much of the plans were changed. “I like your style”, bf remarked when that destination came up.
Throughout my stay in Georgia I have tasted so many type of wine and visit the wine region Kakheti. I visited Khareba winery, one of the biggest, where I met Eka, a smart beautiful young Georgian woman who is now my 3rd friend in Georgia!
There are about 500 types of grapes and in Georgia along there is about 250 types. So the wine are of great variety, and lucky me, of great quality. The Georgian way of making wine keep the skin and stem in the juice for the entire period of fermentation, which result in darker color and stronger wine. The thing they use to keep wine is called “Qveri”. The wine is typically quite young but certainly ha reached a good level of complexity. 2 excellent examples are the Amber Wine and Sarapevi.
Amber wine – You don’t see this anywhere- the grape is from Georgia and with the increase skin contact, a luminous color of amber liquid with strong full taste. This is definitely my favourite among all.
Saparevi is deep red grape, which after the prolonged skin contact produced the Black Wine. I personally like full body red (like Burgundy) so this won me completely.
But here is the most exciting part, a definite pleasant surprise to me – sweet wine! Before this trip I hated sweet wine and considered Moscato the most disgusting wine Human beings had ever invented. So sweet my throat hurt. However, I was made to taste Georgian semi-sweet wine. It’s delightful! Light hint of sweetness, smooth, ruby red and light. I never thought of the day I’d buy a bottle of semi-sweet wine. I did! So I recommend you to try the sweet wine in Georgia as It may well be the best you have ever tasted.
With the great wine, Georgian drink and feast a lot. In fact the Guardian of Tbilisi Kartlis Deda holds a glass of wine as a symbol of hospitality. In a Georgian feast, 1 man will be designated “tamada” (literally toast master). He certainly speaks well and initiates a lot of toasts. He would drink from a goat horn which can hold up to 2l of wine. He would drink it in one go before it got filled up again. The use of the horn is because of it shape, it can’t be put down. One told me she knew someone who did 19 toasts and the only way to avoid drinking in Georgia is to have a doctor’s order. Pregnancy does not count!
Georgian has also made many wonderful things out of grape juice:
- Chacha – it’s similar to Raki/Rakia and lethal! The homemade chacha can be up to 70deg.
- Bvac – delicious thirst wrenching light flavoured soda without crazy amount of gas. I saw this first sold at the train station and was slight taken a back my this nation’s alcoholism thinking to myself “Man, they drink a pint of wine in the sun!”.
- Churchella – the wonderful sweet made of string of nuts (typically walnut as this is very popular in Georgia) cover in grapevine paste (grape juice and flour). It can be in sheet type as well.
- Bread is not from grape juice but is baked in big bell ovens (like Indian making naan) which is fuelled by grapevine and leaves. Smell delicious, taste Devine!
As said, I came to Georgia for the wine, I got that, together with other things came my way unexpectedly!
This is for people from the like of Vietnam who have much restricted on traveling. Americans, you don’t need visa to enter, please stop asking Google.
Georgia is now petitioning to join the EU (target 2019) and currently you can enter Georgia with valid multiple entry tourist Schengen (like the Balkan countries), US or British visa. There are 14 countries outside the Schengen Agreement that you can enter with Schengen visa. Please make sure you triple-check before you go as things may change fast and tell airline staffs because they DO NOT know and will take about 20’ trying to agree among themselves before giving you the boarding pass. Been there, done that.