Stateways Sept-Oct 2014

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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By Harriet Lembeck I f you really care about wine, you should think seriously about making the journey to the country of Georgia. You will experience true hospitality, tradition, wine- making, and still be close enough to the Black Sea's famed resorts when you are ready to relax. And if you like to ski, there are the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains right there as well. FYI, I have just returned from a visit, and saw no sign of any of the unrest that's been in the news lately. There is instead a sense of calm and welcoming. To the Georgians, a guest is a gift from God. And the best way to greet a guest is to serve one's own wine, made from one's own grapes. No patch of land goes vacant, and grapes grow on what elsewhere might be a lawn. Further, every home winemaker has a still, and he will also pour you his clear pomace brandy, or Chacha. If you go to a Georgian ban- quet, dishes will be continually placed on the table, and nothing will be cleared until the end — in case the guest might want a little more of anything! Walnuts are the preferred stuffi ng for confec- tions, fruits, vegetables and even boned fi sh. Meals are leavened with toasts. The toastmaster shows gratitude for the Creator, for food, for friendships, for all the women, for beauty, for love, for people who have passed away and for the children looking to the future. Historical Signifi cance Georgia is referred to as the 'Cradle of Wine, since wine has been made there continuously for the last 8,000 years (The Georgians say "8,000 Vintages"). There was very early winemaking in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Crimea, Armenia and Moldava, but all evidence points to at least 6,000 BCE, if not before, for the fi rst propagation of wine grapes — in Georgia — in the Fertile Crescent. Records show 525 grape varieties, including clones, of which 440 are still in use. Do not despair — even if you go there and taste a lot of wines, you are not likely to come across more than twenty, if that many. The white Rkatsiteli and the red Saperavi are the most prevalent, but you may see some international varieties as well. Historically, this tradition was interrupted for about sev- enty years, when Russia took over between 1921 and 1991. The Russians knew that banning the production of wine was hopeless in Georgia. 'Georgia' is synonymous with 'wine.' But with wine permitted, the Russians were more interested in high volume than in quality, and after three generations, much of the fi ne wine tradition was lost. Many of today's winemakers are now working to restore it. There are 10 main wine regions, which contain 18 smaller Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs), but the majority of wineries and growers are in the Kakheti Valley, very close to Tbilisi. Going from east to west, you will pass through Imereti and other central and western wine regions. Summers are hot, but spring or fall are per- fect times to visit. Your fi rst stop will be Tbilisi, and once there, you should go to the Vino Underground Wine Bar, which has the largest selection of organic and/or 'bio' Georgian wines. Also go to the Azarpesha Wine Restaurant, named for a long-handled drinking bowl, for a traditional meal. You may meet partner and ex-pat American John Wurdeman in either place. He is an articulate moving force in reclaim- ing Georgian traditions in wine, food, polyphonic music and dance, and is also the founder of Pheasant's Tears Winery. All about Qvevris Wine has been traditionally fermented and aged in qvevris, or large clay pots that are buried in the earth. They are shaped something like Roman amphorae, but the amphorae remain above ground. When people buy older houses, it is not unusual to lift up the fl oorboards and fi nd buried qvevris below. Many winemakers are using qvevris now, though some do use stainless steel or oak barrels, and some use both. To learn about qvevris, you should not miss a visit to Twins Old Cellar in Na- pareuli Village in the Telavi district. I dubbed it 'Qvevri School.' The twin brothers have set up an oversized qvevri display to honor their parents. Previously, the Soviets had taken over their winery, and R E T A I L E D U C A T I O N Not the Georgia of Peaches, but the Georgia of Wine and Walnuts PHOTO BY HARRIET LEMBECK One of many paintings of the Madonna, holding grapes for the Child, in the 6th C. Jvari Monastery in Mtskheta. This painting also has grapes carved into the frame. StateWays Q Q September/October 2014 12 HARRIET LEMBECK, CWE*, CSS** is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. (*CertiÀ ed Wine Educator, **CertiÀ ed Specialist of Spirits)

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