Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Georgian wine - a study in red.


The Republic of Georgia is truly one of my favourite countries. It is quirky, not well-known, reasonably distant and interesting; it is a country of deep spiritual and cultural roots, and a country that offers visitors surprise, comfort and a truly warm welcome.
I am heading to Tbilisi again on this next weekend, this for my fifth visit.

I have arrived there in a few different manners. Once on a rather squalid overnight train from Yerevan in Armenia, being hounded by a pair of rather dubious pomegranate salesmen; once on a fascinating ship that had sailed from Illichivs’k in the Ukraine transporting railway carriages and large trucks full of staples for distribution throughout the Caucuses; another time by train, although considerably more comfortably, on an overnight train from Baku in Azerbaijan.
This trip, however, will see me arrive a touch more conventionally on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul. And this time, it is as the guest of The II International Qvevri Wine Symposium.

The Georgian wine industry is extremely interesting. From the end of the Soviet times, not long ago at all in terms of wine making, the industry has blossomed from producing some rather robust and inconclusive wines to the production of some extremely interesting and unique varieties, including a marvellous traditional wine made in Qvevris.
These are earthenware pots, coated inside with beeswax, and used for the fermentation and storage of wine. This process in Georgia dates back to 8,000BC, and for the intervening 10,000 years, one can say that the techniques have probably modified, but ancient vintners would quickly recognise the approach.

Grapes are fermented in the Qvevri and once fermentation is complete, the pot is sealed and left undisturbed for two years. Makers claim that wine made in this manner is stable, rich in tannins and of long life. We will see.

I am looking forward to heading back to Georgia; it is a fine and intriguing place indeed.