Who’s Crazy? Georgia on my Mind

By May 21, 2014Winemakers

When I told my family and friends that I was going to the Republic of Georgia, many of them were incredulous. They thought I was crazy!
But here I am on my dream trip to one of the wine destinations that I’ve thought about for years. Georgia: the cradle of wine civilization that goes back over 7,000 years.

qvevri- traditional clay amphora

qvevri- traditional clay amphora

And my first two days have reinforced my conviction that Georgia is a top-flight wine destination. It has everything a wine lover can expect: great wine, food and culture.
And the people! they are so welcoming and warm to visitors. I was once told that Georgians greet visitors as people sent by God and treat them royally.
Our first stop is the capital city, Tbilisi. It’s a city of contrasts: traces of the past with many examples of modern architecture.
We did the obligatory city tour and had dinner in a typical Georgian restaurant.They do wonderful things with vegetables.
Our first full day brought us to the major wine region of Kakheti in the eastern part of the country. On the way we visited a couple of monasteries, one of which dates to the 5th century A.D. We also had our first wine visit at the Schuchmann Winery which has only been in existence for 20 years. It’s owned by a visionary German who bought land when there was “blood on the streets.” After a multi-million dollar investment, Schuchmann nows produces over 1 million bottles and the most wine made in qvevris in the entire country.
Qvevri for those uninitiated are large clay amphorae buried in the ground where the wine is both fermented and aged. This is the way wine was made in Georgia for thousands of years- and the methodology is starting to catch on. I’ve seen winemakers in France, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia who use clay amphorae to produce wine.
The whites develop a deep orange color because of the long contact with the skins. I bought two wines from Schuchmann today: a white made from the super rare kisi grape (only 100 acres in all of Georgia) and a red from Georgia’s best red grape, saperavi. Both were world-class wines with great balance, color and aroma. The tannins that one would expect from long skin contact are mitigated by the clay amphorae.
Tomorrow we continue with more wine, food and culture and we will have daily updates of photos on our webpage so please keep checking.

 

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