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Mystery tour

January 7, 2014
Kvevri or qvevri

Kvevri or qvevri in the snow. Image: Living Roots

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.

Understanding orange wines

Great image about understanding orange wines by

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.

GeorgiaAnd 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.

Monthly wine writing challenge

P.S. If this all makes you as excited about Georgia and the International Wine Tourism conference as I am you can register here.
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  1. sarahhedonista permalink
    January 7, 2014 8:32 am

    So jealous – this looks like an incredible trip, and wish I could join you. Really looking forward to hearing all about it!

    • January 7, 2014 8:42 am

      I wish you could join me! Looking forward to meeting some new people to taste with on the trip too though. Beyond excited now. It’s all I can think about!

  2. January 7, 2014 12:30 pm

    What a great, great, fun & yummy trip, Sally! Lucky you! xxx

  3. January 7, 2014 12:34 pm

    Wow, a country worth visiting!



  4. January 7, 2014 12:59 pm

    An amazing place with incredible food and very special wine traditions as I am sure you will discover. I thouroughly enjoyed my week in Tblisi and the hospitality of its people. You can also find very unique art and handicrafts there by young local artists if you get a chance. Tblisi is also a very charming old city. I had to laugh with the Texas thing because they are extremly pro US there with a boulevard named George Bush who they continuously told me was their hero and great friend. Enjoy your visit Sally and be prepared for very jovial but competitive drinking ;D

    • January 7, 2014 2:06 pm

      I’ve heard about the toasts! Karin I just can’t wait.

  5. January 7, 2014 2:40 pm

    I’ve heard that Georgian food is very much something to write home about … so I really look forward to reading about your trip. Re wines produced in clay urns, in Italy the wines of Josko Gravner from Friuli are definitely worth a try … Josko Gravner, one the foremost innovators in the use of terracotta vessels for grape fermentation, is an esteemed and innovative Friulian winemaker whose vineyards lie in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy straddling the Italian/Slovenian border. From 2001 onwards, he has used huge, bees’ wax-lined giare (amphorae – singular “giara”) made in Georgia and buried in the ground. The resulting white wines drink more like reds: deeply flavourful, dark in colour and tannic. His three wines are Ribolla, Breg and Rosso Gravner (all IGT Venezia Giulia). The Breg white wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The Ribolla wine comes from the autochthonous Ribolla Gialla varietal. Rosso Gravner is a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The reviews are mixed – some rate his whites as the best in Italy.

    • January 7, 2014 9:11 pm

      That’s so interesting – someone taking ancient wine-making techniques from Georgia to Italy. Thanks for leaving such an informative comment.

  6. January 7, 2014 8:11 pm

    I’d LOVE to go to Georgia as well. How awesome that you are realizing a long held wish to go and visit!

    • January 7, 2014 9:02 pm

      It’s so close to Dubai actually. I’m going on Fly Dubai and it’s only 3 and a half hours. It feels like a long way though – I’ve never visited the Caucasus.

  7. January 7, 2014 9:20 pm

    Love your article Sally. I can’t wait to meet you in Georgia!

    • January 7, 2014 9:30 pm

      Likewise Rowena – it’ll be such an adventure.

  8. January 7, 2014 10:12 pm

    Georgia’s on my travel bucket list too, but I doubt I’ll be crossing it off this year. The closest I’ve got is Georgian food in St Petersburg last year. Very similar to Armenian. Would be interested to hear how the wines fare – enjoy!

    • January 8, 2014 7:08 am

      Now I’m reading up about the Caucasus I’m intrigued by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh too.

  9. January 7, 2014 10:58 pm

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.

  10. talkavino permalink
    January 8, 2014 12:37 am

    Georgia is considered a cradle of the winemaking, with more than 8000 years of winemaking history. I’m sure you will enjoy your visit – Georgia makes a lot of amazing wines, which are pretty much not available outside of the country…

    • January 8, 2014 7:05 am

      Apparently over 500 grape varieties…it’s like a new (old) frontier of wine…

  11. January 8, 2014 7:45 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing here. This is such a fascinating post. I have never considered Georgia as a destination but you have changed my mind about that.

    • January 9, 2014 8:15 pm

      Neither had I until I read the posts by bloggers I followed – when I looked on the map I was astonished to see how close it is to the Gulf (in air travel terms). On a very impatient countdown.

  12. January 9, 2014 1:31 am

    Sally, are the clay urns what they used to refer to in the Asterix comics as “amphoras”? Sounds like you have an exciting trip in store! 🙂

    • January 9, 2014 8:14 pm

      Yes, I believe they are. Very biblical isn’t it?

  13. January 10, 2014 10:53 am

    I can’t wait for you to tell me more about Georgia and the Georgian wines. Interestingly, I have been to Georgia a decade back amidst a whole lot of unemployment and political instability. I would love to visit again.

  14. January 19, 2014 7:43 am

    I worked with a woman from Georgia (country) and she had such wonderful tales to tell about growing up there. Looking forward to reading about your experience there this March… and quite envious! 🙂

    • January 19, 2014 3:05 pm

      It really does sound like an incredible country. Come to IWINETC? 🙂

      • January 19, 2014 10:25 pm

        I am a student (24 credits through the end of March) so I have to wait for you to write about your experience there.


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