A Taste of Georgia!
Earlier this month, the staff of Ottawa Life Magazine received an invitation from his Excellency, the Hon. Konstantine Kavtaradze, Georgian Ambassador to Canada.
Georgia, known Sakartvelo to its inhabitants, is a small country on the Black Sea that is flanked by Russia to the north and Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the south. Tourists can take in the palm trees that line the streets in its sub-tropic resort towns lining the Black Sea while inland, skiers can enjoy the slopes on mountains that exceed the height of France’s legendary Mont Blanc.
The country has a rich medieval history and is sometimes referred to as Iberia.
This year (2018) marks Georgia’s 100-year anniversary of independence from Russia. According to our host, Georgian’s are highly hospitable people and have a strong tradition of toast making. After attending our first Georgian event we can strongly support this statement!
The staff was thrilled and upon arrival a large table featuring many top Georgian wines greeted us. Once the introductions were dispensed and we had tried several of these exceptional wines, we sat for lunch as Ambassador Kavtaradze took us on a journey through the history of Georgia and its wonderful and world famous wine-making industry that dates back over 8000-years.
The wines from Georgia are exceptional. This is mostly unknown in Canada (unless you are a savvy sommelier) because they are not available at the LCBO and most Canadian wines retailers. It’s quite incredible how this small, and exceptional country of only four and a half million people grows over five hundred — all indigenous — grape varieties and supports a wine industry that exports over 61 million litres of “ghvino” a year.
Ambassador Kavtaradze explained that he was going to introduce us to the culture of his country including the rich wine traditions. He glanced at the table and said: “Georgian wine is a proud wine, so you can’t spit it out” . . . Oh, dear! We all laughed and realized this wine tasting experiment was going to be tasty and fun.
Qveri is the ancient process of wine making in Georgia. It involves fermenting the grapes in enormous horn-shaped vessels that are buried in the ground. The result is a natural fermentation process that is all organic. Wine is still made using this method (but lager industrial production also exists). The process is unique to Georgia and explains the quality, consistency and exclusivity of the wines they have produced for centuries.
The Georgian wine industry does not include any big producers that can compete with the likes of Chili or California. Therefore, the bottle price of a Georgian wine would be in the mid-twenties in Canadian dollars and so far, the LCBO has not seen it as the right fit for the Ontario market. However, it is a surprise that LCBO and other buyers do not stock some of these wines in Vintages or similar stores. For now, the biggest market for Georgian wine is China.
The many wines we tasted with lunch were varied but included a medium sweet Kindzmarauli red wine that was a favourite. One of the staff exclaimed, "OMG this is like drinking velvet — it’s so elegant and has such a large bouquet and a smooth finish."
The Mtsvane dry white wine from Eastern Georgia was unlike any white we had ever tasted. With a golden colour it has the rich texture of a fortified wine. The grape variety is the third most planted grape variety in Georgia. Our host explained that the unique taste was a result of this wine being produced using the Neolithic qveri method.
After tasting many wines and enjoying a meal, we raised a glass to our new friendship, thanked our host and headed out, intent on hitting our local LCBOs to request Georgina wines.