20.04.2014. For one evening, a bit of Georgia – and the world’s oldest unbroken wine tradition – came to east London. It was the Georgian supra, part of the Real Wine Fair.
To make this occasion more authentic, various Georgian ingredients had been smuggled in peoples’ hold luggage. And as well as a number of Georgian winemakers, we had a recognized tamada (a toast master) who at regular intervals stood up and led a toast, as is customary in these gatherings.
Apparently, one of the qualities of a tamada, in addition to being eloquent, is to be able to hold large quantities of booze without showing visible signs of intoxication. Another feature of the evening is signing. We left this to the Georgians, and their harmonies were quite beautiful.
Above all, the supra is about fellowship. Sharing together, with the food, wine and chacha (grape spirit) binding us together in a spirit of friendship and shared endeavor.
The Georgian wine tradition is an ancient, unbroken one. Here we find wines made the way they would have been 1000 years ago, possibly longer. They key (and only) winemaking tool is the qvevri, the clay vessel used to ferment and store wine. For those interested, here’s a book in pdf form that tells you all you could possibly want to know about qvevri.
We drank a number of wines. I was sitting next to Temuri (Temo) Dakishvilli, who is one of the youngest winemakers in Georgia. His Vita Vinea wines were lovely. THe 2012 Rkatsiteli is spicy, fresh and lively with apple and citrus notes. His Vitis Vinea Kisi is even better, with lively peppery, spicy notes as well as rich apricot fruit. The Vita Vine Saperavi 2011 has just 13% alcohol, and spends two weeks in one qvevri with skin contact, and is then pressed into another qvevri after fermentation. It’s delicious, with vivid, fresh raspberry fruit, and lovely grip and freshness.
I also tried a couple of the excellent Pheasant’s Tears wines. The Kisi is an orange gold colour, with a matchstick edge to the grippy herb, tangerine and lemon characters. The Rkatsiteli 2013 has notes of raisins, herbs and grapes, and is utterly delicious.
Other wines tried which impressed included the Okro’s Wines Saperavi 2010, the Chkhaveri Rose Dry 2013 and the Artenuli Kahka Berizhili Saperavi.
Saperavi is a wonderful red variety that makes immensely drinkable, dark coloured, chunky wines that respond well to being made in qvevri. Interesting factoid: out of a population of 4.5 million people, apparently 1 million of them make wine. Is this the world’s premier wine culture?
Here’s a short film from the supra: