“I’d like to toast the country of Georgia, our hosts, the incredible work you’ve done to preserve the method of natural wine making, the food, the drink”
“I want to drink to our guests, in Georgia we say every guest is a gift from God”
“Let us toast the people of Georgia, it brings tears to my eyes to see visitors from another country, to see your pleasure, the sparkle when you talk.”
“I would like to toast by singing a song. Let us drink to friendship”
“I’d like to talk about the Causasus mountains and our ancestors. The world is so small now and it’s wonderful that we can all meet. I am also talking to your ancestors, blessing them for your beauty, your courage and your spirit”
“Lets drink! For we are all Georgian!”
These were some of the shorter toasts that started at around 1pm and went on until almost midnight. This tradition of Tamada is typically Georgian, passing around a horn from which to drink, growing more abstract and effusive in praise as the evening wears on.
I’ve had a fantastic but long second day in Tbilisi. I’ve been struck by the almost innocent generosity and hospitality of the Georgians. It’s the first country I’ve been to in a long time where if you take a picture of someone, they smile rather than ask you for money.
In the morning I went to the market, my idea of heaven. There is a divide on this trip: myself and @foodstories are rather more interested in the food but the wine bloggers, who speak in their own language, gargling and swirling drink around in their mouths while staring into space or frowning at each other, or into their glasses, prefer to drink. This trip has been organised by Isabelle Legeron, a passionate advocate for Natural Wines, different from organic wines in that they are made without any additives, yeasts or sulphites (the stuff that gives you a headache). Georgia has revived the ancient tradition of Natural Wine over the last five years; they mature their wines in Kvevri, large terracotta pots or amphorae, sometimes containing five tons, an ancestral method before wine was kept in wooden barrels. This ancient technique can be compared to making sourdough, the natural flora is used to ferment the wine.. The first evidence of wine-making was found in Georgia, 5000 BC. This, along with the lack of additives, gives the wine a very different character, particularly the ‘orange’ wines, which are fermented with the skins of the grapes to give a certain tawny colour.
|Traditional bread oven a bit like a tandoori, they press the dough onto the walls of the inside of the oven.|
|These are like capers|
|The chickens are yellow, probably corn-fed, and have large feet.|
|Disks of bees wax|
|They love a bit of Fablon in these old markets don’t they?|
|Red and green sauce, tkmali, which is made with mirabelle plums; the green are unripe and sour, the red and purple are riper and sweeter.|
|Propolis and honey|
|Seeds for planting are sold loose by the egg cup|
|Sunflower seeds are a popular snack|
|Churchkela seller: these are strings of walnuts dipped repeatedly in concentrated grape juice which forms a skin.|
|The cheese tends to be very salty|
|My booty from the market; seeds and some roots which die eggs red (more on this later)|
|Sometimes the wind kicked up!
After the market, we had our first ‘Supra’ (feast) at a restaurant called The Bread Oven, in fact we didn’t stop eating all day. We saw the opening of a Kvevri in our honour and a stunning performance of polyphony singing by two eight year old girls.
|Orange wine by Malkhaz Jakeli.|
|Feast on a barrel prepared for us while we were tasting wines by Mamuka Mzhavanadze|
|The Georgian cross is unusual: you notice the arms turn downwards and it’s bound together with a rope. The legend behind this is that St. Nino used a grapevine to form a cross and bound it with her hair.|
|Walnut is used extensively in Georgian cooking; here we have beetroot, leeks and spinach mixed with a walnut paste and cabbage, aubergine and peppers stuffed with walnut paste.|
|Trout with pomegranate sauce, rather too sweet I felt. Last year I did a fish dish with sour cherries for a ‘Russian’ meal.|
|Notations on the bottle of Natural wine|
|Sturgeon, boiled and smoked slices|
|A home built still for making eau de vie. I want one!|
|Opening the kvevri, which is a giant terracotta pot lowered into the ground. Here you see just the top.|
|We heard some polyphonic singing in the church. The atmosphere was very casual, informal. People wandering up and down, going up the front to hear the singers, sitting around chatting. It was very commun|
|Another toast, drinking from the ‘horn’ at the house of Giorgi Barisahvili. He also gives us a wine to taste that is made from 110 varieties of grape.
You can buy tickets to the Raw Wine Fair in May here: http://www.rawfair.com/buy-tickets