Awesome Georgian delights
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Eurasia is new to me. It’s an area I don’t know much about and last month I met up with a friend to take a six day trip there, to Georgia, known until 1995 as the Republic of Georgia. Maybe January wasn’t the best time to go, it was going to be cold so I packed really warm clothing and travelled light.
Georgia is a small country in the Caucasus mountain region and on the left side sits the Black Sea, to the north is Russia, to the south Turkey and Armenia. I was headed to the capital Tbilisi from Dubai which is a fairly quick flight, and I was pretty nervous after the recent downing of the Ukrainian flight out of Tehran, Iran, but the trip was preplanned before that event. I was expecting the flight to be rerouted but we flew over Iran gladly at
an altitude of 42,000 feet. Tbilisi has a small homely airport. At immigration everyone was given a small bottle of welcoming Georgian wine, and wine was about to become the theme for the holiday.
I had no idea the extent in which winemaking and wine drinking in Georgian culture is embedded. So after arriving at the hotel in Tbilisi, I met up with my mate, and we took a walk down the street in the old part of town. There was wine everywhere along with another local drink Chacha, a Georgian pomace brandy, which comes in a variety of colours. I started wondering why I hadn’t heard much about Georgian wine; I guess it’s down to being unrepresented in other countries. In fact (as I learned) Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, it’s fertile valleys are and have been home to grapevine cultivation and neolithic wine production for at least 8000 years to the point where wine tradition is entwined and inseparable from the national identity.
The next day, we were a little surprised at breakfast to be served wine with breakfast and later we took a trip to Kakheti, one of the wine making regions where we got to see the ancient viticulture method of using kvevri clay jars. The vinyard owner showed us these jars which were buried in indoor shallow pits; the kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some of these jars stay entombed for up to 50 years.
So why aren’t Georgians marketing their wine more proactively? Well Georgian wine has had a contentious issue recently with Russia. In 2006 Russian put a trade ban on Georgian wine (it’s a long story) but the vineyard owner said he was optimistic about the agreement with the EU and hopes to expand his export market. The traditional, official Georgian grape varieties come in 38 varieties and are grown for commercial viticulture to carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines are named such as one of my favorites, Bordeaux, and the wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. On the way back to Tbilisi, the tour guide gave everyone some Chacha, so much dancing down the aisles on bus, which made for a shortened journey.
So the Georgian trip was a lot drinking and eating. Georgian cuisine seemed to me to be a blend of Greek, Mediterranean, Turkish and Persian food. Here are a few great dishes I tried (heavy but good);
Khinkali (Georgian Dumplings)
Badrijani Nigvzit (roasted eggplant)
Chakapuli (lamb stew)
Mtsvadi (Shashlik, meat skewers)
Georgian Breads – we even visited a bakery to check out the clay pit ovens they’re cooked in.
A few mentions of the places we visited; St Nino’s monastery in Bodbe, Mount Kazbeki, Ananuri Fortress, Lake Zhinvali , Sighnaghi, the picturesque Gergeti Trinity Church and a must do, the Sulphur baths in Tbilisi. Oh, and by the way, I got to take some great photos too.