Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Chicago Tribune": Nation of Georgia a religious experience in many ways

by Terri Colby

03.12.2014. Bordered by the Black Sea, Turkey and the Caucasus Mountains, this small country of 4 million people is more popular with Russian and European tourists than with North Americans, who must make a flight connection in Europe to reach Georgia. It was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, which means amazing churches to explore, and Orthodox Christianity now is the state religion, practiced by 85 percent of the population.

Wine truly is a religious experience: Christianity was brought here in A.D. 337 by a 12-year-old nun carrying a cross made from branches of grape vines. Nearly every family home in the countryside — and even some in the cities — has a small vineyard for producing wine for family use. Forget about barrels: Georgian wine is produced in clay pots known as a qvevri (pronounced kwe-ver-ee) and buried underground.

Fermented along with the grape skins, the unfiltered organic wines have a high tannin content and a complexity that makes even the white wines stand up to richer foods.

The Kakheti region in eastern Georgia is the country's biggest wine-producing area. It also is home to the Alaverdi Monastery, founded in the 6th century and producing wine since the 11th century. Its wine labels and web address  proudly proclaim that it has been producing wine since 1011.

Another not-to-miss stop for wine lovers is 20 miles from Tbilisi: Iago's Wines, a family-owned vineyard of about 5 acres. Winemaker Iago Bitarishvili will show you around and explain the production process. Then you sit down to an elaborate Georgian feast, known as a supra, and taste the wine. The cost is about $18, depending on food selections. The family prepares everything from local sources, including freshly baked bread, fire-grilled pork kebabs and the heavenly Georgian cheese pies known as khachapuri.

Pheasant's Tears winery, run by an American who has become immersed in all things Georgian, has restaurants in Tbilisi and Sighnaghi that offer up traditional Georgian feasts accompanied by wine, of course, and often by Georgian folk singers or dancers.

Source (abridged)

    Georgian Wine Catalogue      
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