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Wine Wednesday: Gurian flavor, Imereti style

Wine Wednesday: Gurian flavor, Imereti style

By Taste Georgia

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Chkhaveri is autochthonous to Imereti’s neighbor, Guria, but Gaioz Sopromadze is one of the first winemakers in Georgia to bottle this versatile and delicious grape variety. He has been bottling wine since 2009 but he comes from a long line of family winemakers.

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Gaioz Sopromadze’s 2012 Chkhaveri

Chkhaveri isn’t the easiest grape name to pronounce but it is always easy to drink. It marries well to the traditional qvevri wine style and drinks like a Sicilian Cerasuolo.

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The color is a lovely, medium ruby red. Aromas of plums are most dominate followed by dark earthiness, blood and iron and a slight hint of animal sweat. Like being in a barn full of fresh hay. Beautiful mouthful that takes me back to the physical feeling of Santa Ana winds. Italian plum cake, lots of fruit, hint of sapidity, medium acidity and finish. It is a powerful wine that doesn’t have to try to hard to be liked. It’s beauty is in its drinkability.

 

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: 07/04-13/04

This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: 07/04-13/04

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 07/04-13/04

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1. Georgian grape varieties to be planted in China

In an attempt to raise awareness of Georgian wines in the Ningxia territory, Georgian grape varieties will be planted there. China is one of the largest importers of Georgian wine, with Georgia being one of China’s most important partner countries in terms of winemaking.

2. Georgian airports serve 42.62% more passengers

Tourism is on the rise in Georgia with an increase of 42.62% in passengers during the first three months of 2017. Tbilisi International Airport served 528,145 passengers alone!

3. Saperavi the sensational [Saperavi wines from worldwide compared]

Saperavi is one of the most important grape varieties in Georgia. This article discusses Saperavi’s movement into Australia, then samples both Georgian and Australian saperavi wines.

4. Penguins from the UK’s Bristol Zoo Moved to Tbilisi

Nineteen penguins have been donated to the Tbilisi Zoo in an ongoing attempt to revive the glory of the zoo before the flash flood in 2015 that destroyed most of the exhibits. There is hope that the penguins will begin a new breeding group to increase the numbers of the endangered species.

5. Georgia: Pearl of the great Caucasus

This is a great introductory article to the vast variety of experiences Georgia offers. Everything from cities to visit, dishes to try, and wines to drink are covered, along with how to get there!

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Wine Wednesday: French elegance, Made in Georgia

Wine Wednesday: Purity in Chinuri

By Taste Georgia

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I am starting to love wine Wednesday. It is an excuse for me to open up some bottles I have been saving (hoarding?), and the memories of the first time I drank the wine or met the winemaker flood my mind. Wine is like that

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This week, my Georgian wine is a 2015 Art Villa Garikula. A stunning sparkling wine made by a French ex-patriot living in Georgia. Vincent Jullien was the first to make Pétillant Natural wine in Georgia.

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This wine is a symphony written for dancers. It is a  he makes his with a Chinuri Mtsvane Goruli blend from Ateni, a region in Kartli that has Georgia’s best potential for making world renowned Sparkling wines. In Soviet times, the area was given over to fruit production, but more and more wine producers are investing in the its potential.   Made in steel tanks and then reconditioned in the bottle and disgorged, so his wine is not sur lie (on the yeasts). It has of a suggestion of must aroma and citrus, followed by  citrus flowers, cold mountain air and liberality. On the palate it had just the slightest residual sugar that danced on the tongue. A truly well made wine.

 

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: 31/03-06/04

Wine Wednesday: Purity in Chinuri

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 31/03-06/04

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Photo: National Geographic Kids

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Keti Berishvili’s family were winemakers so she became involved with the business at a young age. This was the first year she produced her own wine which is available for purchase at organic wine shops.

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Written more like a blog than a newspaper interview, this article detailed Lizi Gerliani’s experience at the English National Spelling Bee in Tbilisi. It’s a quick and easy read highlighting a different side of Georgia you don’t normally see.

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This article has so many great suggestions for places to eat and drink across Georgia. There are also hotel recommendations.

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Along with the tigers, 18 other animals are being donated to the zoo. After two years of repairs the zoo is thriving!

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The new center will be open towards the end of summer and will feature a research lab, wine cellar, and a hotel. It will employ between 100-150 citizens.

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: 24/03-30/03

This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: 24/03-30/03

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 24/03-30/03

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Tuesday (28/03) was the first day of visa free travel to Europe for Georgian citizens. To celebrate, the PM went to Athens then Brussels.

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This week’s Women of Georgia is about Tsopurashvili who talks a lot about growing up with her mother and grandmother. She then discusses her life goals before ending with her experience of dealing with her mother’s diagnosis.

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13 different tournaments will take place within six different regions of the country, and will feature both local and international athletes. The tournaments range from March 31-September 15.

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This article details some great recommendations for visiting Tbilisi, and also some surrounding areas. Fair warning, you have to create an account to have access to the full article, but there is good information within.

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Seven Georgian wine companies introduced their wines at a tasting organized by the Sommelier Association of Monaco. Over 85 sommeliers, wine makers, and media representatives were present.

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Taste Georgia at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Catania.

Taste Georgia at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Catania.

By Taste Georgia

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The 9th annual International Wine Tourism Conference kicks off next week in Catania. Taste Georgia founder Sarah May Grunwald will be speaking about wine tourism in Georgia. Her talk is:

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Wine tourism in the Republic of Georgia, working with local government agencies and finding balance between wine trade and travel industries (Branding & Marketing)

Wine Tourism is gaining momentum quickly in the global tourism industry. The IWINETC is heading into its 9th conference and the number of people interested keeps growing. The Republic of Georgia hosted the first United Nations World Tourism Organisation International Wine Tourism Conference in September of 2016. It was a fitting place to host the first conference as the birthplace of wine. My talk will go over the key points that can be used globally as an approach to world wine travel and will cover the following points: Why work in Georgia? What makes Georgia special? Republic of Georgia specifically and working in a market that is just opening and still adjusting to global trends. How to work with local tourism and wine agencies efficiently, using my examples as a foreigner working in Georgia How to approach new markets; such as the growing interest from India and China Wine trade or travel industry? What has worked for us in Georgia when we work with media outlets The Republic of Georgia and its future as a wine travel destination. Predictions and plans.

If you are there, come say hello!!

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: Week of 10/03-16/03

This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: Week of 10/03-16/03

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 10/03-16/03

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1. The Largest Low-cost Airlines RyanAir to Launch Flights in Georgia

Thanks to the new decree that Georgian residents can travel through Schengen zone without a visa, RyanAir might go to Georgia. The company has yet to make the official announcement, but flights are expected to start at 5€.

2. 50 Tbilisi pictures that will make you want to visit Georgia
This blogger describes her feelings about Tbilisi, including some great stories of her first time there, before ending with 50 gorgeous pictures.
3. Lucky tourist given VIP treatment and dinner with Prime Minister after becoming 6 millionth person to visit Georgia

Tourism in Georgia is up 7.6% from last year, and the country decided to celebrate by surprising a Dutch tourist with a full VIP experience. The article details what his trip consisted of.

4. A field guide to khachapuri, the indomitable cheese bread of Georgia

Khachapuri is bread filled with cheese, although there is a large variety. This article details the different types of khachapuri while offering recommendations on where to buy it and recipes if you want to make your own.

5. Masterpieces of Georgian & World Art: The Past, Present & Future of the Georgian Museum

The Georgian National Museum Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts opened the new exhibit ‘The Museum of Fine Arts- Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’ opened on March 6. The exhibition showcases Georgian and world art and will run for about a month.
6. Soviet po-mo: what can we learn from Georgia’s forgotten master architect?
Discusses Viktor Jorbenadze’s buildings and his personal history. There are also some great pictures of the architecture.

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Wine Wednesday: A Tsolikouri of the Ages

Wine Wednesday: A Tsolikouri of the Ages

By Taste Georgia

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Back in 2014, I visited Georgia for the first time and had a whirlwind adventure on a press trip. I tasted so many different wines and had incredibly long days which often translated into palate fatigue. During a wine tourism conference, my friend Irakli took me aside and invited to me his friend’s house for dinner, a local winemaker. I accepted, glad to have a break from the pony show that so often occurs on press trips. The home belonged to Eko Glonti, and the wines were Lagvinari. Eko would become a dear friend, and his wines were-and still are-my favorite Georgian wines.

The first wine he served was his Tsolikouri, which was one of the most alive, powerful and poetic wines I have tasted. I felt as if he had captured a lazy summer day in that glass. Fermented in qvevri with the skins for 45 days, then matured in qvevri until bottling. From then on, I have been a champion of the Lagvinari line, and have written about Eko and his wines  over at Wine Sofa.

Lagvinari Tsolikouri 2013

Here are my original notes:

Autochthonous variety from the West Georgia region of Imereti. Golden amber in color with some sediment. Notes of green apples, yellow plums, citrus aromas of tangerines and Clementine followed by floral and nutty aromas and hints of citrus blossom honey. It is lively and fresh on the palate with a citrus taste, and a long lingering finish with a pinch of tannin at the end.

And today:

This wine has evolved into a slightly deeper amber color, with apples and citrus peel, dedicated fruit, a waxy quality, and more distinct dried flower and hazelnuts. It is still very fresh and lively, tannins are much more integrated. Still youthful, acidic and fruity. I think this wine has the ability to age for at least a decade. LONG, citrusy finish.

If you are in the EU you can purchase this wine from Biserka over at Marani Slovenia. She sells Georgian wine out of Slovenia. Website is in Slovenian but she speaks English so an email is sufficient.  In the USA, Corus Imports carries the Lagvinari line.

Lagvinari is a line of natural, low intervention Georgian wines. The grapes are grown organically, and the wines are made in qvevri.

I will be hosting a small tasting in Rome in April and this wine will be featured, so stayed tuned to the Taste Georgia blog or find us on Facebook.

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: Week of 02/03-09/03

This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: Week of 02/03-09/03

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 02/03-09/03

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This article is originally in Italian, but can be translated if opened in Google Chrome. Offers suggestions for great food, locations to see, nightlife, and more.

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Focusing on the spice blend Khmeli Suneli, this article details what it is, how to cook with it, and where to buy it. There is also a recipe at the end to make your own!

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Details the top 5 countries Georgia is exporting wine to, while detailing how these numbers have increased in 2017. Georgia has added $20.5 million to the economy during January-February alone!

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This social project is accumulation of quotes from interviews with a variety of Georgian woman. Think “People of New York,” but solely with Georgian Women. This week celebrated International Women’s Day.

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This social project is accumulation of quotes from interviews with a variety of Georgian woman. Think “People of New York,” but solely with Georgian Women. This week celebrated International Women’s Day.

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Australian publications features three producers and tells the story of a wonderful Georgian themed picnic in Australia that featured the food, wine and music of Georgia.

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Wine Wednesday on International Women’s Day

Wine Wednesday on International Women’s Day

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 23/02-01/03

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Tragedy gave birth to International Women’s Day in 1908, and the world still has a loooong way to go until we reach universal equality for all genders. But this is not a political post, it is a post to celebrate women and wine.

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There has been, lately, an undertone of mansplaining in the world of wine. And though there are blogs and magazines that dedicate pages and pages to women in wine, we still have to work twice as hard for the same recognition

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In Georgia, winemaking was considered to be “man’s work” and women played a participant role. The fact of the matter is, women have been involved in winemaking since it’s inception. The qvevri is shaped like a uterus, the whole process is a celebration of women’s bodies.

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But as the millennia passed by, wine and the world become more male oriented. It is our  history. From Earth to Sky.

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I have already written extensively about women in Georgian wine, and you can follow links if you want to learn more. Women have made great strides in Georgian wine and so today, as I reflect on the female condition and my place in the world, I drink to the pioneers. Mandili was the first wine produced and sold commercially by women. It was founded in 2012 and the wines are beautiful. Mariam Iosebidze’s Tavkveri is a fun, fruit forward wine that can pair with just about anything.
From one company in 2012 there are now more and more women involved in natural wine in Georgia. It is truly an exciting time! And the wines speak for themselves.

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Taste Georgia celebrates Women in Georgian Wine!

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News: Week of 23/02-01/03

This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture News:

Week of 23/02-01/03

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 23/02-01/03

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Qvevri

Over 500 Artists to Perform at GEM Fest 2017 in Georgia
GEM Fest is a month long EDM festival held in Anklia for the third time. At the time of publication, only 15% of artists had been announced, but more than 500 artists are expected to perform. More information about the event and the link to buy tickets is detailed in the article as well.

Georgian Wine Degustation at Boston Wine Expo
The Georgian National Wine Agency (NWA) presented 18 different Georgian wine producing companies at The Boston Wine Expo. This event is a great chance to establish Georgian wine in the US market. The exportation of Georgian wine to the US increased 15% from 2015 to 2016.

Visas: Council adopts regulation on visa liberalization for Georgians
The decision allows Georgian citizens to visit EU countries without a visa if the trip is under 90 days. Once the Council and the European Parliament sign the adopted regulation, it will be enacted in 20 days.

Interview- Alice Feiring (Okay this was last week, but I wanted to add it because it is too good to skip!)
This in depth interview of Alice Feiring, author of Naked Wine, focuses on wine, writing, tasting natural wines, women in wine, and much more! The concept of activism in wine is discussed.

How to go from Tbilisi airport to the city centre
This is an exceptionally handy article detailing all the ways to get into town from the airport.

How to combine a wine-country tour with an adventure holiday
The first part of the article focuses on touring Sicily, but the later half is about Georgia. One recommendation is to tour the wine country by horseback!

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This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture 16/02-22/02

This Week in Georgian Food, Wine, Travel and Culture 16/02-22/02

By Taste Georgia

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Week of 16/02-22/02

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Taste of Tbilisi: Georgia’s Capital Beyond the Food Tours (16/02)

Lists 5 different restaurants within Tbilisi. One is Wine House Sirajkhana, which they say is one of the best places to taste authentic Georgian wines. It does mention Culinary Backstreets Tbilisi in a sentence in the intro as a company that can take you to Dezertirebi Bazroba.

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Picasso, Kandinsky among iconic painters in first Tbilisi display (18/02)

The Art Palace museum venue will invite visitors to view works by six painters including Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and the Georgian Realist school pioneer Gigo Gabashvili. The gallery opened on 18/02 and lasts a month.

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Georgia lists ancient temple Ateshgah in Tbilisi as site of national significance (21/02)

This article is super short (3 paragraphs) so I don’t have much to say as the title describes the main point of this article. I tried finding the “Georgian sources” APA says they’re getting info from, but I don’t think it’s in reference to other articles as this is the only I can find about it thus far (except for other articles referencing this one.)

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Georgia ~ Tearing a page from the books of art, architecture & history

Debbie Rogers breaks down her trip to Tbilisi, which is a great get-away for Dubai residents. She had a lovely time over the weekend including wine tours and tastings with Eko Glonti of Lagvinari and tours with Taste Georgia.

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Wine Guys: Georgia (the country) offers unusual wines worth tasting (21/02)

Gives a short intro about Georgian wine, amber wine, qvevri, before recommending 12 different wines. The wines range from $13-$15. For each of the wines, they describe the flavor and give recommendations of what it would pair well with.

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First graffiti shop and school opens in Tbilisi (22/02)

The gallery and studio opens on 25/02 and will offer classes, sell artwork of local and international artists, and will also have paints and other materials available to buy. Classes will last for a month and cover the history of graffiti as well as offer practical lessons.

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The Unstoppable Progress In The Georgian Wine Scene (21/02)

This article has seven subheadings consisting of the first Wine Tourism Conference, the dimensions of Georgian wine, improving the quality of wine, the unique varieties, Pét-nats, places to enjoy wine in Tbilisi, and increased government support. So much is covered that it is quite difficult to summarize it into 2-3 sentences, but my personal favorites were in the unique varieties and the increased government support sections. They talked about how when Georgia was part of the USSR, they mostly produced only 2 types of wine, but local winemakers maintained smaller plots and continued growing other varieties, which is why there are so many unique grapes today! The other highlight is at the end of the increased government support section, Taste Georgia is mentioned which is awesome!

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Top Five Non Georgian Qvevri Wine Producers

Top Five Non Georgian Qvevri Wine Producers

By Taste Georgia

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Qvevri

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Wine has been made in qvevri in the Caucasus for over 8000 years, and as Georgian qvevri wine is enjoying the limelight internationally, it should be no surprise that this technology that links us back to our neolithic ancestors has found its way to International soil. Winemakers around the world have become so interested in producing wine in qvevri that the vessels can’t be produced quickly enough.

I’ve tasted hundreds of qvevri wine in Georgia and have spent the last three years researching and becoming intimate with the process and the winemakers who embrace it. Most winemakers agree that qvevri allows the grapes to express the terroir much better, and that some grapes are much better suited to long macerations than others. Wine, like culture, has context, and sometimes the qvevri wines I have had that are not made in Georgia just feel wrong. They do not make sense and don’t give a sense of place. I think the best winemakers who are embracing qvevri are people in tune with their vineyards, the soil, the grapes and make a point to listen. Qvevri wine is all about patience, a love of the vines and a profound relationship with the land they are grown in. Variety choice is also hugely important.

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Verticacl Tasting of Gravner Qvevri Wines

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Gravner Gravner is based in the Collio hills in Friuli Venezia Giulia on the Italian and Slovenian border. Josko took a trip to California and tasted the chemical stews called wines there that turned him from a modernist to a naturalist in wine. No list of non-Georgian qvevri wine could be possible without the intervention of Josko Gravner whose vision for wines that expressed the land and with the least amount of intervention possible kicked off a movement. I first tasted these wines at a Friuli Venezia Giulia trade show in Rome a number of years ago and most recently I had the great honor to attend a vertical tasting of eight Ribolla Gialla wines back to 2000. The 1998 Breg is, to date, one of the best wines I have ever had. I have never had a bad or off wine from the line. They are consistently powerful, emotional and evocative of a time forgotten and of the richness of the Collio region. The price point is quite high, so they are best for very special occasions. The rise of amber wines was born with Josko Gravner’s vision.

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“Sicilian” Marani

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Vino di Anna Anna Martens gives her name to the wines which range from the simple (but delicious) Palmento to qvevri wine with the black grape Nerello Mascalese grape on Mt. Etna. Ms. Martens and partner Eric Nairoo of Les Caves de Pyrene work with as little intervention as possible, a big stretch from her former days making SuperTucans at Tenuta dell’Ornellaia in Tuscany. I had the chance to visit with my good friends and locals Brandon and Lidia. We took a slight detour from our already hectic #winelover schedule. Etna is already such a special region, with its autocthonus grapes and volcanic soil that is alive with mythology and, it seems, a touch of the Goddess Gaia herself. Etna is an active volcano and the terrain here can change in an instant. This is reflected in the wines and as my dear friend and wine producer Eko Glonti says, qvevri helps the grapes express the terroir better. These wines taste important. They are full of energy and heat, just like the place and I believe, the passion of the winemakers. The Qvevri Rosso is a great example of this philosophy.

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Albert Mathier et Fils The Valais is the wine world’s best kept secret. I joined a press trip in 2014 with twelve delegates from the Digital Wine Communications Conference and hosted by Wine Grapes own José Vouillamoz. Visually stunning and beautiful, the wines from the region consistently held up to a high standard of purity and quality unmatched by any place I have ever visited. We visited Mr. Mathier at the height of my Georgiaphila, so at the time, it was one of the most exciting stops in a trip in which we tasted wines of the highest caliber and rareness, I shudder at the memories, even today. There are two wines made in qvevri: Amphore Blanc and Amphore Noir. A white and a red. I enjoy both wines, but it was the amber hued Amphore Blanc, made with that really knocked my socks off. It was silky and warm, with elements of a crisp fall day in the glass. One of the purest and most well made qvevri wines I have had. It was a “happy” wine. Drinking it at the winery was joyous and a moment I will always keep close to my heart.

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Photo taken from Blue Danube website

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Kabaj French enologist Jean-Michel Morel, inspired by Josko Gravner, embraces the qvevri tradition with the Amfora which is blend of Rebula and Tocai Friulano (known locally as
Ravan). Years of experience as a winemaker from Bordeaux to Collio (Italy) is very evident in the wines. The qvevri wines are macerated in the qvevri for about a year. The wines are precise and clean, but show a beautiful mineral quality that expresses the territory perfectly. I first tried these wines when I was showing Georgian wines in San Diego in 2015, and I have been hooked ever since. Luckily they are easily available in the USA via the Blue Danube wine company.

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Photo from vignavitevino.ch

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Vodopivec Paolo Vodopivec makes extraordinarily structured, balanced and age worthy Vitovska in qvevri in the Carso region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy. They are quite poetic wines that are enjoyable with or without food. The wines are a test of patience with six months of maceration in qvevri and then two years in Slavonion oak. The result is wines that are complex, defined and very fresh.

by Sarah May Grunwald 

Thanks for reading the Taste Georgia blog

Categories
Best Destinations

Georgia Themed Holiday Gifts

Georgia Themed Holiday Gifts

By Taste Georgia

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Well, 2016, an admittedly difficult year is finally coming to an end. But you still have gifts to buy, dinners to prepare and holidays to celebrate. To help you out, I have come up with a list of products that everyone on your holiday list will enjoy.

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For the book lover: Look not further than Alice Feiring’s For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World’s Most Ancient Wine Culture. One of the most lovingly poetic books on wine I have yet read. Meet the people behind the Georgian wine revolution. Alice spent years meeting winemakers, learning the customs and being embraced by families. It is a beautiful and intimate ode to a wonderful country, flaws and pimples included. A must read for any #winelover.

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Kargi Gogo went from being one of Portland’s best food trucks serving up khatchapuri and khinkali to the hipster masses to an online vendor of Georgian food and wine themed products as well as Georgian spices. Check out their site for gifts ranging from Khinakli t-shirts and socks from Alter Socks, Khinkali tree ornaments to adjika. Kargi gogo is your one stop shop for all things Georgian.

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For the inquisitive #winelover, Blue Danube is offering a six-bottle variety pack for 99$. Members of their wine club receive free shipping. It is a generous offer and a perfect time to introduce a variety of Georgian wines including one from our favorite wine producer, Gotsa.

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Khinkali in Georgia

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For the travel lover, Taste Georgia is offering gift certificates for our tours that are redeemable at any time. Check out our website. Our cooking classes are always a popular choice. And through December 23rd, we are offering a 15% discount to all bookings, two person minimum.

Categories
Best Destinations

Why Georgia?

Why Georgia?

By Taste Georgia

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By Sarah May Grunwald

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Considering the long hiatus I’ve taken from blogging here, I had to ask for advice from a writers’ group I’m in. Projects, life, art, work… they’ve all gotten in the way of writing about Georgia, and distractions aside I find it difficult to write about Georgia anyway because Georgia is so familiar to me, I make the assumption that it is familiar for everyone else. Illogical. My colleagues, Meg Houston Maker, and Robbin Gheesling suggested coming back to my blog and addressing the most common questions people ask me about Georgia. I thought about a Top 20, but I didn’t think questions such as, “They make wine in Georgia?” or “You mean, Georgia, as in Joseph Stalin?” merited an answer here. I thought about it for some time and realized that the personal questions I receive are the most relevant, because I have received the same five in some form time and time again during the past 3 years.

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What brought you to Georgia in the first place?What brought you to Georgia in the first place?

The short answer is wine, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. My journey to Georgia started a couple of years before I ever step foot in the country, back in 2012. I was in a tasting group with four other Rome based sommeliers and we were becoming more and more interested in natural wine and emerging wine regions. I was a professor teaching wine at Instituto Lorenzo de Medici and one of my lectures was on the history of wine, which, of course spent significant amount of time on Georgia and the qvevri. By that time, I had only tasted Josko Gravner’s qvevri wine and started to become increasingly intrigued by the origin of wine.

One of my colleagues from the tasting group told us about the 2012 European Wine Blogger’s Conference in Izmir, Turkey which featured a press trip to Georgia. I eagerly signed up for the conference and tried to get on this trip, but unfortunately, I did not. Instead I ended up going to Cappadocia. We met fellow wine lovers and wine writers at the conference, which ended with a Grand Tasting of regional wines. The theme of the conference was “Source” and we tasted wines from the countries of Origin, including Turkish, Armenian, Georgian and Lebanese. I remember being captivated by the two Georgian wines we tasted. One was an “orange” and one was a red, both made in qvevri. I had completed my sommelier courses a few years prior and kept my palate up-to-date by joining tastings, having my own tasting group and attending trade shows. Those two Georgian wines, however, were not like any wines I’d had before. I thought to myself that I needed to develop a new wine vocabulary for such wines. I decided to make it a point to get to Georgia, and soon.

I made tentative plans with a friend that fell through for a variety of reasons. I was discouraged by other travelers’ tales of misogyny, sexism and food poisoning. By then my tasting group had evolved into a web portal on Rome’s food and drink scene. I was more comfortable as a writer.
In late 2013, I saw that the International Wine Tourism Conference would take place in Tbilisi, Georgia and they were accepting applications for the FAM trip and petitions for speakers. I sent in an application for the press trip, I was accepted and was also invited to speak at the conference. I was finally going to Georgia after two years of trying.
Within a few days in Georgia, I was completely seduced. It felt like falling in love. Really. And I have been dedicated to my beautiful Sakartvelo (Georgia) ever since.

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Why Georgia?

The simplest and yet most difficult question- I’ve heard this one asked in a few different tones ranging from “Why the F**K Georgia?” to, “Georgia, wow, why?” On a spiritual level, coming to Georgia feels like a homecoming. I feel it is my spiritual homeland. The country and its people embraced me, including or in spite of my idiosyncrasies. I am a foreigner here and yet I feel like I make sense. When I came to Georgia the first time I was a really broken person on a lot of levels. I was in mourning, I’d lost faith in collaborative work, and the wine trade had become somewhat stale to me. Then I met Georgia, its songs, its pain and suffering, its joy, its tables, and its wine. Coming here reminded me of the first time I wore glasses. I was 30. For my entire life, I felt everything was out of reach, because it literally appeared that way. I saw the world in a sort of haze. When I had my glasses fitted and walked out the store I saw a tree, but I mean, I really saw this tree. It wasn’t just a brown trunk and green foliage, it had texture, shades of brown and green I’d never thought possible. I cried. I’d been missing so much in my denial of my eye problems. So it was with Georgia. From bland to technicolour. That was my spiritual journey.
As a wine professional with a decade of experience in in the food, wine and travel industry, it was immediately obvious that I needed to have a business here. I wanted to stay in touch. Within a week of being in Georgia I’d experienced the best hospitality I had ever experienced anywhere. From large factory wineries, small producers, hotels and restaurants and coffee shops, I felt welcome. In Georgia they say that a guest is a gift from God. This doesn’t mean the guest is treated as a god, only that a guest is honoured. I realized that Georgia had a system of hospitality built into the culture. Hospitality is tradition and I believe one of Georgia’s greatest assets. Founding Taste Georgia came naturally to me. I found people to work with, Irakli Cholobargia and Natia Khindasheli, two of the best people I have ever met in my life, Taste Georgia was born in July 2014, we had a website by January 2015 and at the end of that same month, we were already featured in the New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2015.

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What are the challenges of working in Georgia?

Creating a business in Georgia was a breeze. It is one of the easiest countries in the world to open a business in. I think in total, registering my company, opening a bank account and getting our VAT number took a total of 45 minutes. From that point of view, it has not been difficult.
However, there are challenges. There are still a LOT of infrastructure problems. Tbilisi is a very polluted city and the country itself is still identified as an Ex-Soviet country, and at a certain age demographic, there is a mentality my friend Daniel Khasidy coined as Soviet Stockholm Syndrome. These are challenges, which as a Westerner doing business here, I’m still learning to adjust to. Things can run at glacial speed, and even though everything seems to work out, when I am approaching deadlines, I have a high level of anxiety when it seems to roll off the backs of people around me.
The biggest challenge is Georgia itself. I have created a wine and food travel business in a country that has only recently been getting recognition as a travel destination for people from non-ex-Soviet countries within the past decade or so. Though I enjoy being a part of the education process as a writer and business owner and through wine education, it does create a lot of work for me that my business in Rome never did. Part of my job is to be a proselytizer of Georgia, Georgian wine and Georgian food. My profession by trade is wine education, and I find that the culture of wine in Georgia, and Georgian wine itself, are great ambassadors to the country. I have always believed that we meet culture and tradition at the table.
We don’t have a lot of competition right now. Georgia just hosted the first UN WTO Conference on Wine Tourism which we attended, and Georgia is predicted to be in the top 10 world destinations by the year 2020. I really enjoy being a part of this. I enjoy using social media as a platform for visibility and I also appreciate greatly having guests who feature us and Georgia in their articles. To date we have been featured in The New York TimesNPRLonely PlanetNational Geographic Travel and dozens of food, wine and travel blogs.

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What is your favourite Georgian wine?

This is a loaded question, and never asked by a wine lover. My gut response is to say, “It depends on what I am eating.”
I tend towards the wines of Imereti over Kakheti, though there are a few exceptions. I think this is because my palate is calibrated to Italian wines and the concept of wine and food always being together, so I like fresher wines with more food pairing options. Right now, based on the last two and a half years of tasting hundreds of Georgian wines, my favourite producers are Lagvinari, Gotsa Family Wines, Iago’s Wine, Mandili, Nika Bakhia and Ramaz Nikoladze.
The wine that seduced me was a 2013 Lagvinari Tsolikouri. Now a “unicorn” wine. I’ve written extensively about its maker, Eko Glonti. That wine felt like I was dancing with Baryshnikov when I’d been square dancing with hillbillies my entire life.
Right now, the wines that are exciting me the most are the 2015 wines from my friend Beka Gotsadze of Gotsa Family Wines. He is doing incredible work in the vineyard and cellar and his Pét Nats are just brilliant.

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What are Georgia’s treasures?

I can carry on for days about the Caucasus Mountains, the 8000 years of unbroken wine culture, the qvevri and how wine is so intrinsically linked to the Georgian identity. Or perhaps I could write about the national Poem, A Knight in Panther’s Skin, which ripped my heart out and taught me the true meaning of friendship and love (and it is essential reading if you ever want to understand Georgia). Of course there is that unique language with its beautiful script, spoken only by Georgians and not related to any other language. Maybe the layers and layers of history, the Golden Fleece, Medea, the Argonauts, Queen Tamar. There are so many cultural and natural treasures in Georgia, but if I can be honest, the greatest treasure of Georgia is the Georgian people. I love them.