TRAVEL: Jews in Georgia

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I was looking forward to visiting Kutaisi, the second biggest city in Georgia, and I was not disappointed. David the Builder lived there, and, according to legend, Jason sailed in the Argonaut on the local Rioni River to get the Golden Fleece. The Bagrati Cathedral was built at the end of the 10th century and is worth a visit. Nearby are the ruins of a military fortification, a small church and an 11th century wine house where you can still see kvevri, or clay wine vessels, in the ground. Each kvevri is about three and a half feet across. Our guide said that surely the Jews in Georgia used this traditional wine-making technique.

via TRAVEL: Jews and Jeeps | San Diego Jewish Journal.

Sampling Georgia’s Old World wines – Travel – NZ Herald News

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The traditional Georgian way to make wine is with a kvevri. Putting the grapes – with the skins still on – into a big clay pot and burying it in the ground. The pot is lined with beeswax to stop oxidation.

The result is a very different tasting wine from what we’re used to. Now I’m not going to pretend to be a wine expert, but I drink enough of the stuff and I know what I like. And I like Georgian wine.

Pheasants Tears didn’t offer a white, instead it has an amber wine, with a nice hint of honey. I also enjoyed their black wine. A very dark red, apparently the skins are left on the grapes until the very last minute.

Up until recently, Georgia exported its wine solely to Russia. But amid worsening relations in 2006, Russia banned all Georgian exports so wine producers were forced to explore the global market.

The traditional kvevri process came under threat as big producers adopted European methods using stainless steel and oak to give the wines a mainstream taste. A handful of organic producers have stayed the course though and as international wine drinkers get bored of the same old stuff they’ve been drinking forever, places like Pheasants Tears are slowly but surely seeing a demand for their product. So if you ever see traditional Georgian wine in New Zealand – give it a go.

Next destination after Georgia, well that’s where we hit a snag. Our plan was Central Asia but being journalists makes getting visas to some countries there very difficult. So our next stop is India, we’ll explain why in the next blog.

By Charlotte Whale

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