Being brought up as a Catholic, one of the tales from the Bible we were taught very often was the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. With or without an omnipotent figure involved, the transformation of the watery juice of grapes into intriguing alcohol is pretty mysterious. The influence that the soil, bedrock, roots, climate, grape variety, micro-organisms in the air, the material of the containers, the phases of the moon (if you believe some people) and many other elements, all combine, like the ingredients of an alchemist, to produce thousands and thousands of wines and vintages which have different subtle effects on the senses, mind, body and soul. These permutations in combination with each drinker’s unique palate means that until you actually sip a glass of wine, even if you think you know what to expect, the exact aromas, flavours and textures will remain a mystery until actually experienced. It’s what makes wine so beguiling to some and bewildering to others.
The wines at the wedding in Galilee would have been stored in large clay urns; a little farther North-East on the other side of Turkey, wine-making in urns is still in practise, in fact the Georgian winemaking method of fermenting grapes in earthenware, egg-shaped vessels called qvevri (or kvevri) has been added to the UNESCO world heritage list.
Ever since I read about Georgia (here, here and here) I’ve been longing to visit. A unique Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, a traditional way of life, the markets, the hiking, the monasteries …. and, of course, the wine. It’s a place still off most people’s radar; everyone I’ve mentioned it to thinks it’s part of Russia and while modernisation of cities and winemaking is taking place at fairly rapid pace, old ways are valued too. While many vineyards in Europe are turning back to natural wine making, in Georgia they never stopped, and have been producing it in the same way for 8,000 years.
When I mention to friends that I’m going to Georgia, I have to qualify it with “not the one in the US”. Intriguingly, the state of Texas was once located near the country of Georgia prior to the earth’s plates separating into our modern day continents. Even more mysteriously the most well-known Georgian red grape variety Saperavi, and a Texan grape Lenoir have many similarities even though they are from different vine species.
And yes, I am going to Georgia at last, in March of this year, to attend the International Wine Tourism Conference in the capital Tbilisi. With speakers from Georgia, Italy, Uruguay, the US and India they’ll be an interesting perspective on making and marketing wines from many different parts of the world, as well as lots of tasting. After the conference I’ll be seeing different parts of the country, tasting the local food and visiting many winemakers too. Someone from the group worked out we’d get to taste over 17 new (to us) grape varieties. No mystery as to how I’m feeling about this.
This is my entry for the 6th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC6), the theme of Mystery set by The Drunken Cyclist this time. Check out the rules deadlines and other entries here and here. I’ve come in well under the general 1000 word limit but as I far exceeded this in other entries I’m hoping I’ve got some words in the bank so to speak.