Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Georgia on my mind

Georgia is the home of wine, and not just any wine. The ancient Greeks considered it to be the finest wine in the known world, and vastly superior to their own somewhat vinegary efforts. For 8,000 years the Georgians have understood the need for stable temperatures during the fermentation process and therefore buried their wine in vast terracotta pots known as qvevri so that come rain or shine the temperature remained almost constant. Changing methods, intensive farming and artificial fertilisers and pesticides took their toll on quality during the 20th century, but now Georgian wines are experienced a much-deserved revival, and the results are quite remarkable.

To try the finest wines that modern Georgia has to offer, we joined the Georgian Minister of the Economy, Vera Kobalia, food critics and invited guests at Hibiscus, the double Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair. Wine connoisseur Isabelle Legeron matched seven of Georgia's best wines (all on the menu at Hibiscus) with chef Claude Bosi's dishes and over the course of three or four hours we learned about the history and techniques of Georgian wine making. Other than the importance of the qvevri, we discovered how Georgian white wines are often fermented with the grape skins, giving the resulting wines a gloriously rich orange colour.

Our second Georgian encounter, just three days later, was at the Raw Wine Fair in a converted brewery on London's Brick Lane. More than 200 natural wine producers from around the world gathered to show their wines first to the general public and then to the press and trade. Natural wines go one stage further than organic wines in that not only are the grapes grown without the use of chemicals but also no additives are used during the wine production process.

Eight Georgian wine makers were showing their wines at the fair, including our good friend Eko Glonti. A Doctor-turned-Geologist-turned-Wine maker, Eko is reviving disused vineyards in Georgia and re-discovering the traditional wine making methods. Despite having only produced wines commercially for the past two or three years, both his red and white are already turning heads: they're already on the menu at Hibiscus and will shortly be impressing diners at The Fat Duck in Bray. His red wine, our particular favourite, is exceptionally fruity and will be ready to buy via his website around September time. Alongside the Georgian wine we were able to try incredibly nutty Georgian sunflower oil with superb Georgian breads, plum sauce and meats. Often motivated by good foods, we're planning a visit to Georgia in the autumn to fully appreciate on home soil the foods, wines and, of course, teas for which Georgia should certainly become renowned.

Source (edited)

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