Friday, June 17, 2016

What makes Sakartvelo (Georgian) wines so difficult

17.06.2016. Before heading on trip to Georgia (country, not US state…) I started to read up more on the various regions and wines to have a better idea of what I was heading in to. As often stated, the country has been producing wine for 8,000 years and has over 500 native grape varieties. For anyone trying to wrap their head around all the more popular European grape and region names, this is not welcome news…

I soon gave up as I realized that somewhere along the line, someone acted out a linguistic vendetta towards the Georgians and transliterated the Georgian names into the weirdest concoctions you’ve ever seen, specifically with the over-abundance of the letter ‘v’ which is sometimes actually a ‘v’ and other times a ‘u’. This can be no easier seen in the fact that we have the name of Georgia completely an utterly wrong in English as it’s actually Sakartvelo. That’s not as hard as it sounds as it’s actually pronounced ‘sakartuelo’ which goes to show how ridiculous this whole ‘v’ thing is.

Added in to this fun is that the US state of Georgia produces wine as well and at some point, even if it’s never recognized at a UN level, in the wine trade we should really refer to Georgian wines as Sakartvelo wines as they as certainly worthy of being un-confused with those wines from the humid South of the United States. In fact, let’s start doing that right here and now.

I’ll be writing more about other aspects to Sakartvelo wines so I’ll take a moment to clarify a few things for whomever might be reading this and doesn’t want to tie their brain in a knot like I did when trying to figure out how the hell these names. Well, beyond the easy ones like the red Saperavi and Aladasturi grapes or the white, Kisi and Chinuri grapes.

This is the most important word of all as it’s the Kartuli ena (Georgian) word for wine! But it immediately shows how silly this ‘v’ is as the word actually sounds like, ‘guino’. You might think, “Gee, that seems a lot like ‘vino’ in Spanish, Italian, Croatian, etc.” when it’s actually the other way around and the consensus today is that ‘wine’, ‘vino’, and all other derivations of the word originally came from Sakartvelo which is pretty damned cool.

Kvevri (Qvevri)
This is the name of the now rather famous amphorae in Sakartvelo although the exact same clay containers exist in Armenia where they’re called ‘Karasi’. This name looks impossible to say but it’s really not that bad: “kuev-ri”. The question as to why two v’s were used is bizarre but not as bizarre as the hopefully soon-to-be lost spelling with a ‘q’. That apparently came about due to the ‘q’ on the English keyboard being the same letter as the ‘ქ’ on the Sakartvelo keyboard. I actually had someone show me this, so I can verify that it’s true. Supposedly, John Wurdeman of Pheasant’s Tears was also pushing for it as he liked the shape of the ‘q’ more than the ‘k’. I’ve only heard their secondhand so I don’t know if it’s true or not and I’d put more faith in the first explanation.

The far eastern region of Georgia with 70% of the wine production, thus an important place to know. In this case, it’s the ‘h’ that’s confusing as the ‘kh’ is mean to signify a hard ‘h’ like the ‘jota’ in Spanish, thus this is really just, ‘kaheti’. For some reason in Russian it’s ‘kahetia’, but in Kartuli ena that trailing ‘a’ isn’t there.

A white grape that’s been a workhorse of the region for some time. That’s an onerous name, but there’s no reason it should be that difficult to say as from all I can tell, the ‘r’ is essentially unvoiced. It’s like someone saw it there in Kartuli ena and decided to drag it along for the ride like your mom making you take your little brother out with your friends to party. The ‘ts’ is like the end of ‘cats’ so in the end it sounds like ‘kats-i-te-li’ which to me sounds nearly Italian although an Italian told me it sounds like something rather rude in Italian.

A relatively common white grape, it’s sometimes it’s written ‘mtsvani’ but that’s incorrect. This is a bit more of a tongue twister as that ‘ts’ sound comes in to play again and yes, the ‘m’ is indeed said. To make it a bit easier, try to say, ‘mitts-va-ne’ as it’s very, very close to the actual pronunciation.

I kinda threw this in here for shits and giggles because it’s not commonly found but it pulls in all these hard to pronounce and badly-spelled items. In short, this has the hard ‘h’ at the beginning but altogether it sounds, like ‘hwi-kwi’. It’s not that hard to say once you get your head around it–and you ignore the impossible to understand version in the Latin alphabet. Makes a pretty tasty wine though and I hope it continues to be re-cultivated.

This is just for starters as there’s a great deal more to delve in to but if you encounter these grapes in your local market (and you very well might as exports are rapidly growing) you’ll have some idea of how to say them… I hope.


  ▼ View Map     Add new object    ▼ Read more info  

    Georgian Wine Catalogue   
 To add this Search Box to your website,  click  here. Many designs are available.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nice article, however my opinion, as a Georgian, about the 'v' is a bit different. There is actually a mispronounciation of the V from the croud. Sakartvelo, Hvino (or Gvino-which actually doesn't sound like the real word at all) or other usages of the 'v' is eased in the actual speaking because of laziness of our tongues. It is easier to say Sakartuelo than saying the hard V like SakartVelo. It is just that, a misuse of the V by the people. Otherwise, the V is there and shoukd be used as a V. And even in English I think, it helped to separate the definition between Wine and Vine to better recognise the two different objects.

  3. Wata,

    Indeed I was quite surprised at how poor the transliteration was in to English and how irregular the 'v' was when it would have been easy enough to substitute a 'u' to make everything much, much easier to say. Going forth in any writings of mine, I intend to rectify this as much as possible. I don't speak Georgian so it will be a best-effort and I welcome any clarifications. For example, I also found that Sighnaghi doesn't have the hard 'h' on the second 'gh', so what's up with that as well?

    All very frustration and now just because I have a name where people think it's Miguel instead of Miquel!

    Wine on VI

    1. Hehe, yes it is funny. But these are the iso's and unicodes and etc. Like 'kh' sounds more like 'k', English speaking people don't really get what the 'h' is doing there and what it is used for. There is a Georgian name, Kakha (official international transliteration) but when an English speaker says it, it sounds like Kaka... and in French, one of my friends is writing it with an 'r'... as the pronounciation of Kara in French looks more like the original than the Kakha (that sounds like poop-Kaka) but the better transliteration would be in Spanish - Kaja - where the 'j' is read like Juan or Julio (Iglesias) or jalapeño. So in English it should be more Kaha than Kakha. And Signagi is almost the same (or Sighnaghi), both 'gh's sound are the same letters in Georgian, the ღ, that again sounds like the French 'R' à la French. So in English it should have been transliterated more as Sihnahi than Signagi. Anyways, beautiful article, never seen anyone going that deep especially from wine to language tricks... My email: z.ezdikinas @ gmail would you want to stay in touch.

      Gaumarjos! (the Georgian cheers/santé that means actually 'may there be victory'/'may that bring victory' or may even have other definitions - I'm not a linguist).

    2. However, again, about the V, Qvevri should be read as it is written, Sakartvelo should be read as it is written. Just some people who do not pay attention say Quevri and Sakartuelo or Qwevri and Sakartwelo, but in Georgian it is written Qvevri (ქვევრი) as you see both v's are the same 'ვ'. So don't correct the words with a 'u' because you will be writing as an uneducated Georgian :D (you understand of course - I know very well how hard it is for you... different language and a new alphabet over the top hehe)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...