|Photo: Korea Herald Georgian Embassy|
28.12.2014. The last of this year’s embassy receptions fell on the eve of Christmas Eve, and befitting the seasonable occasion, featured red and white decorations and wine.
Tables full of Georgian wine and food enriched the flavors of the annual year-end reception organized by the Georgian and Ukrainian embassies at Lotte Hotel in Seoul last Tuesday, where wine lovers sampled Georgia’s finest spirits. A variety of homey Georgian cuisines ― highlighted by vegetable and herb dishes, grilled lamb and nutty pastry ― added texture to the fine wine-tasting and string-quartet performance.
“Georgian people have great pride about their wine, which goes beyond a popular drink. It is considered a ‘holy beverage,’ having a special place in the cultural life of people,” Minister Counsellor of the Georgian Embassy George Khabelashvili said.
Located east of the Black Sea between Russia and Turkey, Georgia has an extremely diverse climate ranging from humid and subtropical to dry and hot conditions. Its combination of moist air, scorching sunlight, water and wind give birth to a melange of flavors in wines, from full-bodied to lightweight ― the most varied in the world.
The Caucasus Mountains bordering Russia in the north are where the Caucasian race is believed to have originated, along with the world’s first wine 8,000 years ago. In the “cradle of wine,” ancient wine barrels and vessels made of clay, bronze, silver and gold dating back five millennia have been dug up from Bronze Age tombs across Georgia.
Georgia lays claim to the world’s longest unbroken wine-making tradition, creating more than three-fourths of its wines using traditional methods. Grapes and vines are fermented in clay vessels known as “qvevri” for one to six months, and the tannin structure is thickened with ripened walnut, pink rose and orange peel flavors.
Among the more than 500 indigenous grape varieties cultivated in the country, 18 of which are state-managed, are “saperavi” and “tavkveri,” used for red wines, and “rkatsiteli” and “mtsvane,” used for white wines. The Georgian government from this year has actively supported wine production across the country, providing 7,000 seedlings to farmhouses and planning to diversify its seed types to over 70,000 over the next several years. It has also set up committees and research centers to nurture the industry, which prides itself on organic production.
According to a Georgian National Wine Agency figure released in December, Georgia exported 60 million 750-milliliter bottles of wine to more than 40 countries. The Georgian Embassy said that although Georgian wine does not yet have a marked presence in the Korean market, “As Korean consumers’ tastes and understanding of wine will mature, they will switch from drinking mass-produced wines to the handmade wines from Georgia.”
Neil Koh, who owns drinks and culture magazine DNC and officially imports Georgian wines through his company Rusko spirits, said, “Wine connoisseurs know Georgian wines are different from other more well-known wines from France, Italy, Spain and Chile. Thanks to its organic harvesting methods, the tastes are natural and down-to-earth, like Georgian people’s character.”
Koh added, “As Korean people’s tastes for wines diversify and gentrify, they will come to appreciate the high quality of Georgian wines, truly one of a kind.”