Even as a little girl, I always wanted to go to far away places and learn about strange, yet beautiful things. I was always curious about how other people lived, worked and their appreciation of life. I never thought that those dreams would manifest themselves in a career that is more of a life long discovery, or better yet journey which would eventually allow me to travel around the world. One such journey brought me to a land where many believe to be the birthplace of wine.
My journey through the country of Georgia began with the International Wine Tourism Conference that was held in the Capital city of Tbilisi. Located in the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe, Georgia is bordered in the Turkey to the south, Western Asia in the East, the Black sea in the North and Russia in the North. Although as an independent country up until the 18th century, Georgia was annexed by Russia at the beginning of the 19th century. After gaining their independence from the Soviet Union, the occupation left some very deep and painful scars. In the 1990’s, Post Soviet Georgia struggled to rebuild their identity and economy as a Nation. Today, with the launching of the ‘Rose Revolution’, the new Georgian Government is addressing reforms that hopefully will bring, the country into the 21st century.
As a traditional wine-making country, there is no other country in the world that can boast of having 525 indigenous grapes used in producing 8000 vintages. Red and white grapes traced back to more than 6 millenniums are still used to produce wines of distinction. The Orthodox Church play a big role in keeping the traditional winemaking culture alive. Although there are modern machines and technology available in Georgia, many of the Monasteries make their own wines as it was made in ancient times using only natural yeasts making these wines some of the oldest ‘Natural wines in the world’.
The way the wines are produced are also amazing, because in Georgia they still use clay vessels called ‘the Qvevri (or Quevri)’ in which they bury underground when fermenting, as well as for storing. The Qvevri comes in many sizes, so a small one can be opened and completely consumed by a small gathering. The moment one opens a Qvevri, it is usually completely consumed amongst the guests. The use of the Qvevri is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage.
Then there is the food. Georgian cuisine is simple with resemblances of many different food from found in other countries, but then there are things your find only in Georgia. From suckling pig, to a cheese bread that resembles a pizza, to soup dumplings which are very tasty, to a kind of candy fashioned in a form of a sausage which is kind of weird, all these things and more to see, smell and taste in Georgia that writing one article is not enough. So, this is just the first of a series I will be presenting on not only Georgian wines, but also its foods, regions and culture. Enjoy!