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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Corsican fan of Georgian wine

by Eka Salaghaia

04.07.2015. In the French city of Juan-les-Pins, Georgian rugby player Ilia Kakhoidze and his Corsican friend Jermaine Gerard decided to set up a Georgian vineyard. This spring, they planted 200 grapevines of Mujuretuli variety and started construction of a marani (underground tunnel used to store and age wine). Four Georgian kvevri (giant clay jugs for storing wine) have already been filled. Very soon the marani will also be outfitted with a wine press and a toné (an oven similar to a tandoor). Before the first rtveli (harvest) is complete, a wine tasting room is also expected to be added.

“What we ended up creating was a tiny model of Georgia. We already have a vineyard and a marani, and soon we will squeeze the grapes out and store it to age in Georgian kvevri. Any wine enthusiast will be able to come here, see how things are going, taste the wine and satisfy his curiosity in general.”

Mr. Gerard, a Corsican man hopelessly in love with Georgian wine is a lawyer by profession; despite being a wine enthusiast in general, he never owned a vineyard before. Neither was he ever interested in the winemaking business, including that of France, but after getting acquainted with Georgians, he changed his mind and now tries to do everything to popularize Georgian wine in France.

Ilia Kakhoidze and Jermaine Gerard both think that if this popularity is achieved, Georgian wine will proceed to conquer the world. We are going to wait eagerly for that prognosis to come true, and in the meanwhile, interview the rugby-player-turned-winemaker Kakhoidze himself:

– To whom does the idea of creating a Geo­rgian vineyard belong, you or Gerard?

– Here is how it went: I’ve been playing rugby in France for a decade, but I am a winemaker by profession. In this country, one can buy a large variety of wines, including those from countries were viticulture is merely 100 or 200 years old. That’s the reason why I always thought that Georgian wine not having its rightful place in France was a bit unjust. In 2012 I founded a company and started bringing Georgian wine into France.
Soon after my company’s first anniversary, a director of one of the French restaurant networks gave me a calling card and asked me to contact its owner – apparently, one of his regular clients, some lawyer, asked him to help find someone who dealt in importing Georgian wine. The next day I dialed the number specified on the card and the call was picked up by none other than Jermaine Gerard, a man who amazed me with his knowledge and love of Georgia. It turned out that he knew the history of our country and especially its winemaking better than most Georgians do. Upon introducing himself, Jermaine told me that he pretty much worships Georgian wine, considers it a pinnacle of our high culture and wants to popularize both it and the wine itself. “Let’s take the bull by the horns and offer this godlike drink to people instead of waiting until they decide to taste it themselves,” he said.

I and Jermaine ended up working so closely that he went as far as to offer me a plot of land to set up a vineyard there. “Since your roots call you and you love wine so much, having a vineyard of your own must be a real godsend,” he explained when making the offer. It was decided that aside from the vineyard, we were also going to build a marani and a tasting room to make sure that anyone interested in Georgian wine would have a chance to try it firsthand.

What we ended up creating was a tiny model of Georgia. We already have a vineyard and a marani, and soon we will squeeze the grapes out and store it to age in Georgian kvevri. Any wine enthusiast will be able to come here, see how things are going, taste the wine and satisfy his curiosity in general.

– Did you bring the grape saplings over from Georgia?

– Not directly. What we did instead was contact a certain very well-known company that cooperates with the Georgian Institute of Viticulture and sells Georgian grape saplings. We ordered Saperavi grapes from them. Unfortunately, they were out of stock – something happened to their Saperavi saplings, as far as I know – and they offered us Mujuretuli instead, one of the oldest and most robust grape varieties in Georgia. Together with Aleksandrouli grapes, it is used to make Khvanchkara, an excellent semi-sweet wine. Purely by accident, our shipment arrived on my birthday, March 29, and we planted the saplings on that very day. I love these saplings like my own children, and they don’t disappoint, either – their growth is extremely fast. We are going to have our first rtveli in 2017, and Jermaine is planning to drink to Georgia and Corsica alike from a kantsi (drinking horn) made from horns of a Georgian mountain goat.

“Twenty-five of the world’s most famous sommeliers tasted the best wines eight Georgian companies had to offer and matched them with menu items of various restaurants. They praised the wine very highly and claimed that it was a perfect match for French cuisine.”

Source

    Georgian Wine Catalogue      
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