Georgian wine is the potion of centenariansNovember 18, 2018
HErb, fruity, mild acidity. In the finish a trail of peach and peppermint. A spice is there, maybe tarragon? It is a white wine, but it is more orange in the glass. In this way it has existed for about 8000 years.
Iago Bitarischwilli smiles. “Why not?”, Asks the 40-year-old winemaker from Tschardachi, a village near the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Although he had harvested the grapes just over two years ago and bottled the wine a year ago. “But just like that, the first wine could have tasted humanity.”
After all, it was here in Georgia, where the oldest traces of winemaking were discovered. In addition to nuclei of the genus Vitis vinifera sativa found Neolithic potsherds, the inside had deposits of tartaric acid.
More than 5000 years old is the fragment of a clay pot, whose ornaments show tendrils. Kwewri is the name of the amphora-like container, it still stands in many Georgian households. Iago alone has twelve of them in his cellar.
Most winegrowers have small areas
But Keller is not the right word. It is a small vault where Iago leads its visitors. Surrounded by brick walls or shady quince trees, the Maranis Georgian wine camps are located on the ground floor.
The kwewris pick up deep holes, into which flows the squeezed grape juice – including shells, seeds and parts of the vine. No artificial yeast provides for the fermentation, no sulfur is to make the wine durable, no gelatine aufhübschen him. After two to three weeks of fermentation, the wine is separated from the pomace and the kwewri is closed with a lid and loam. Then the wine may ripen, at least a year. That’s how it was 8000 years ago. And so it is Iago still today.
Its acreage is just two hectares, the Chinuri grows on it: It is one of about 500 autochthonous grape varieties of the country, they thrive only here. The view from Iago’s small estate goes far over the plain to the mountains of the Greater Caucasus. In good weather, says Iago, you can see the Kasbek, the third highest mountain in Georgia with more than 5000 meters. Thick-bellied kwewris dry in the sun.
The trough, in which the vines are squeezed out with their feet at harvest time, is filled with now empty bottles. Iago draws about 3,000 bottles a year from its amphorae. It could be much more – if the winemaker wanted. “For that I would have to buy grapes. But then it would not be my wine anymore. “He exports almost everything from production, mostly to France, the USA or Switzerland. The small rest he serves to shish kebab in front of the flickering fireplace in his home.
The palate has to readjust
For some, Iago’s wine is love at first sip. Others find it rather getting used to. He is one thing in any case: especially. No comparison at least to the Cabernets, the Chardonnays or Rieslings, which populate the western wine shops. Giorgi Barisaschwilli, one of the best connoisseurs of Georgian wine, has a clear opinion: “They stink,” says the 41-year-old, “of wood and sulfur.” But a wine from Georgia that “smells”.
Listening to Barisaschwilli, it is easy to believe that he was personally acquainted with the holy Nino who, in the middle of the fourth century, struck the first Christian cross in Georgian soil. “It was made from the wood of a vine and connected to her hair,” says Barisaschwilli.
When speaking of the Maranis, the wine camps, they seem like holy places. “They are the first thing to be built in a new house.” And even if it has long since collapsed, the area has long fallen desolate – a part of the Maranis. So at least one Kwewri, stay buried in the place. “And when the churches burned in wartime, marani could also be married or baptized.”
“I do not just recognize the wine with my tongue or nose,” says the wine expert. “I recognize him with my mind.” How does that work? “You have to know everything about him, the place where he grows, how he is made. And also, which people make him. “All this one had to know for the assessment. Does the latter not matter anyway? “Oh no,” Barisaschwilli says, “a bad character can not make a good wine.”
There used to be 500 grape varieties
Restless Giorgi Barisaschwilli drives through the wine growing areas of the country, discovered again and again forgotten new grape varieties. Just 40 of the 500 autochthonous grape varieties of Georgia are still used today. That’s what Barisaschwilli wants to change. Recently, he picked a vine from the tree of a deserted farmstead in Georgia’s province of Imeretia, the species was considered extinct. Now he cultivates her seeds.
Barisaschwilli’s relationship to wine can be called good and intimate. “A wine is like a lusty woman, it rises quickly in the head, but is also quickly gone.” A wine from Georgia’s largest growing area in Kakheti, however, was like an old, elegant man. “He comes to you very slowly. He stays that way longer. ”
Wine, say the Georgians, is not alcohol. It is her spiritual good. It is a medium between the spiritual and the earthly world, it opens the mind to the hidden things. That, one might argue, happens worldwide, especially after the fifth glass. In Georgia, however, it leads to long, poetic, very varied toasts, which are cultivated at festivals. “And for the hundredth time, no saying sounds like the other,” says Barisaschwilli. Perhaps this is one reason for the remarkable narrative tradition, for the rich literary heritage of the small people in the Caucasus.
Unthinkable to receive a guest without wine. After all, he is the calling card of the house. When Prohibition struck at the end of the Soviet Union, many vines were destroyed – murdered, the Georgians say. In their part of the empire, however, the state’s efforts went nowhere. “The inspectors would have needed in every house,” says Barisaschwilli. “There they would have been shot by the master of the house.” Do not serve wine at funerals, at weddings? Rather, the party would be canceled.
Three million bottles a year
The only question is, why the wine from Georgia is not long on everyone’s lips. The wine’s peculiar taste, full of bitter tannins and aromatic phenols, may be one of the reasons. At least in the wine-loving world of the West, which also has an overwhelming marketing power.
Another reason is the small acreage – on just 40,000 hectares of grapes grow: sonorous, but largely unknown names outside the country such as Saperawi, Zolikuri or Rkaziteli. Some fields measure only one hectare, the annual production just enough for their own use.
About three million bottles are produced in the wine country of Georgia, almost 100 percent are exported, mainly to Russia and other Slavic-speaking countries. No comparison to the nearly 100 million bottles from Georgia, which the Soviet citizens once drank. At that time little value was attached to the traditional wine making in the Kwewris laid, most of it came from stainless steel tanks. The art of the Weintöpferei degenerated, the variety of the vines dried up.
Now there is a kind of re-flowering, a reflection on what is perhaps the country’s largest mineral wealth. Now the shelves are filled with wines of the old tradition, supplied by numerous new wineries. Now also the monks of the many monasteries are again submerging their bread in the clay pots, the contents of which are more than ever regarded as a fluid prayer.
Drink for eternal life
At the same time, some see a danger in too much publicity. For example Iago Bitarischwilli from Tschardachi, who offers and markets wines in the “Vino Underground”, a restaurant in Tbilisi: “Then the wine loses its aura. He is not mass-produced, he is a collector’s item. “That’s why he sends the representatives of a Russian company back from the farm, who want to order 20,000 bottles from him. Do not you want to get rich, Iago? The winemaker looks over at the farmstead of his neighbor: “Achbar over there is also wine. He does not sell anything. Achbar seems happier than me. ”
Achbar’s grandmother was over 100 years old. Just like his own grandmother. “That’s Georgian wine, because it has a lot more of this anti-cholesterol thing than your wine.” But is not Georgia’s kefir the drink of the centenarians? “Oh,” says Iago, “that’s just what we tell you Westerners. Otherwise you will all come and drink our wine storage. ”
Tips and information on Georgia
getting there Nonstop to Tbilisi for example with Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) from Munich or with Georgian Airways from Berlin in almost four hours (georgian-airways. Com). Alternatively to Kutaissi flies from Dortmund, Berlin and Memmingen Wizz Air (wizzair.com).
accommodation A Georgian-German run hotel is the “Suliko Tbilisi”, eight rooms provide a family atmosphere in a quiet side street of the city. For breakfast there are local products, including the famous Grusinese tea, double room from 44 euros including breakfast (suliko.eu).
Two hours’ drive east of Tbilisi, in the village of Kisiskhevi, is the Schuchmann Hotel. Attached is an on-site winery with antique grape varieties, double rooms from around 60 euros (schuchmann-wines.com).
In Borschomi, Crowne Plaza Borjomi offers modern Georgian-style rooms with chandeliers, leather sofas and teak parquet flooring, double rooms from 60 Euro (ihg.com/crowneplaza).
Package tours A six-day “wine trip Georgia” costs from the provider Georgia Insight from 1255 euros per person, flights are not included. The program includes the Kachet Wine Route and a Kwewri pottery in Kakheti (georgia-insight.eu).
If you want to hike in the lonely nature of the Greater Caucasus, you can for example book trips to Georgia and be accompanied by German-speaking mountain guides in Svaneti, Chewsuretien and Tushetien on the way, twelve days cost at the special provider from 1490 euros per person (georgienreisen.org ).
information desk visitgeorgia.ge; georgia.travel
Participation in the trip was supported by Georgia Insight. Our standards of transparency and journalistic independence can be found at www.axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.
Source: Welt Germany