GEORGIAN WINE AND FOOD
Georgia is a cradle of wine. The fertile valleys of the South Caucasus house the source of the cultivated grapevines and neolithic wine production, from over 8,000 years ago. The world’s widely cultivated vitis vinifera vine is believed to have originated here, sprung from the wild vitis vinifera silvestris whose roots can be traced back one million years. The roots of Georgian viticulture have been traced back by archaeology to when people of the South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was nourished by experience, and from 6000 BC inhabitants of the current Georgia were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels called Kvevris, in which to store their wine ready for serving at ground temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the Kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth.
Many wineries still employ the same wine making techniques that existed thousands of years ago, the large egg-shaped clay vessels in which grapes are fermented with their raw materials, giving rich, structured, tannic wines. The same method for making red wines is used for the whites, yielding amber-colored results. No matter the color, the vessels are sealed and buried in the ground. This ancient Georgian wine making method was Inscribed in 2013 by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Viticulture still holds a prominent role in the country's ethos. More than 500 indigenous grape varieties are still vinified here. Wine plays a vital role in everyday life and in the celebration of secular and religious events and rituals. Wine cellars are still considered the holiest places in the family homes. The tradition of wine making defines the lifestyle of local communities and forms an inseparable part of their cultural identity and inheritance, with wine and vines frequently evoked in Georgian oral traditions and songs.
Despite boasting 8,000 vintages, Georgian wines have come onto the world wine map only recently—thanks in part to the amber-wine trend, growing interest in natural wines, and improvements in the vineyard and winery. Skin-contact fermentation and naturally occurring yeast. These are among the low-intervention principles embraced by contemporary natural winemakers worldwide. In many ways, Georgia may be the spiritual home of natural wine.
Our diverse landscape and climate zones enable us to produce far more varieties of grapes than virtually any other country in the world. Main grape varieties in Georgia: White grapes: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane Kakhuri, Khikhvi, Kisi, Kakhuri Mtsvivani, Chinuri, Goruli Mtsvane, Tsolikouri, Tsitska, Krakhuna, Rachuli Tetra, Sakmiela, Avasirkhva. Red grapes: Saperavi, Tavkveri, Otskhanuri Sapere, Shavkapito, Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Dzelshavi, Usakhelouri, Orbeluri Ojaleshi, Ojaleshi, Chkhaveri.
Situated at the crossroads of East and West, Georgia has fallen within the orbit of many cultural influences and empires. One of the earliest Christian civilizations, Georgia has endured its share of invasions and Georgian food is well reflective of its past. In the times of peace, as merchants carried goods and spices along the Great Silk Road, Georgians embraced new seasonings and methods, adopted and incorporated foreign ingredients and styles into their own. Throughout the centuries, Georgian food has been influenced by the Mediterranean world, Arab and Mongol flavours, Persian and Ottoman kitchens, the link stretching as far as Northern India. Today’s Georgian food and cuisine is a rich interplay between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tastes. Georgian food and wine culture is best observed through Supra – traditional feast featuring a wide array of assortment of dishes always accompanied by large amounts of wine, lasting several hours.
While visiting Georgia we recommend you to try some of our favorite dishes of the local cuisine:
1. Khinkali-the most popular dish in Georgia. It is a dumpling made with a variety of fillings. In the mountains, this much praised dish is made with lamb, which comes in abundance, elsewhere, mixture of minced beef and pork is used. The origins of Khinkali can’t precisely be traced; some accounts point to Tatar or Mongol influence, others claim khinkali to be an indigenous product of Georgia’s primordial mountain culture.
2. Khachapuri- it is the Georgian classic, cheese bread par excellence. It’s form, as well as texture vary from region to region: it can take a thin or thick crust, it can contain single or many layers, Khachapuri can assume round, triangle or rectangle form of all sizes and even come boat-shaped with an egg in the middle, as is the case of Khachapuri from Adjara – Georgia’s coastal region on the Black Sea.
3. Mtsvadi-A skewer of meat, be it veal, lamb or pork is symbol of true celebration à la géorgienne. While choice of meat varies from region to region and also according to seasons, the grilling method is more or less the same throughout. Out-of-age grapevine is considered to be noblest among the choice of wood. Once grilled, meat cubes are removed from skewers and shaken in a pot of thinly sliced onions and pomegranate juice. Sizzling meat slightly caramelizes the onions, while pomegranate juice forms a mild, acidy sauce with the meat juices.
4. Pkhali - A cold vegetarian appetizer, popular Georgian tapas. A mélange of spice-rich walnut paste, fresh herbs and vinegar is added to vegetables, fried or boiled. Pkhali is often garnished with pomegranate seeds, which enhances the mild acidity with a sour, fruity finish.
5. Eggplant with walnuts-Another popular appetizer. Thin, long slices of eggplant (or aubergine) are cooked until brown and soft, then a paste of walnuts, vinegar, and spices is spread on the eggplant slices, which are then rolled.
6. Mtsnili-An appetizer made of pickled vegetables, such as cucumber or courgette, ripe or unripe tomatoes and even leeks and garlic cloves. Most unfamiliar of these would perhaps seem pickled flowers of Jonjoli – a medium sized indigenous bush producing long stemmed flowers, which are harvested just before they flower in May and consumed throughout the year.
7. Satsivi-A food paste made from walnuts that is used in different recipes. It’s also used as a generic term for a turkey/chicken meal prepared with this paste, that Georgians make for the New Year’s Eve. One of the varieties of satsivi is bazhe, it’s slightly tart and is made with red wine vinegar.
8. Walnut Kharcho-A spicy Mingrelian dish which is popular in western Georgia. This delicious heavy soup may be prepared from beef, chicken or duck meat, depending on taste. Here the main role is played by the creamy walnut sauce ideally mixed with different spices. Walnut Kharcho is well served with Mingrelian garnishes: Ghomi, Mchadi and Elarji.
9. Chikhirtma-A brothy chicken soup, but if it’s made right it is extremely flavorful. The secret is the vinegar, egg, and flour. The vinegar gives the soup a delightful tang and the egg and flour makes it a little bit thicker and heartier than your standard chicken soup. Chikhirtma is especially good when you are having a hangover.
10. Lobio-A kind of thick baked bean soup flavored with various herbs and spices to make a rather unique dish that is often eaten with bread and Mtsnili.
11. Georgian Salad-There’s a limited choice of traditional salads in Georgian cuisine. Salad usually means cut up tomatoes, cucumber, and onions flavored with salt and green chilli on the side. However, as Georgians are obsessed with walnuts, they add walnut sauce to this simple salad, making it much more delicious and somewhat unique.
12.Sulguni cheese rolls-These rolls provide a good example of how Georgians mix several dairy products together to come up with a tasty snack. Ricotta kneaded with mint is rolled into thin slices of Sulguni cheese to make these mildly salty, aromatic mint-mingled cornets.
13. Matsoni-A fermented dairy product that is served at room temperature. It looks like yogurt, but its thinner than Greek yogurt and mostly made from cow or buffalo milk.
14. Chiri- A Georgian name for dry fruits. Locals mostly dry plums, apples, figs and kinglet, but one can even find more exotic local Chiri prepared from kiwi or banana.
15. Churchkhla-often called Georgian Sneakers, is a local candy, made from toasted walnuts and nuts dipped in a grape juice mix with flour and hung to dry. This candy is sweet and fulfilling, and a great snack during a long day sightseeing.