Sunday, 1 April 2012

We are all Georgian: Day 2

"I'd like to toast the country of Georgia, our hosts, the incredible work you've done to preserve the method of natural wine making, the food, the drink" 
"I want to drink to our guests, in Georgia we say every guest is a gift from God" 
"Let us toast the people of Georgia, it brings tears to my eyes to see visitors from another country, to see your pleasure, the sparkle when you talk." 
"I would like to toast by singing a song. Let us drink to friendship" 
"I'd like to talk about the Causasus mountains and our ancestors. The world is so small now and it's wonderful that we can all meet. I am also talking to your ancestors, blessing them for your beauty, your courage and your spirit" 
"Lets drink! For we are all Georgian!"
These were some of the shorter toasts that started at around 1pm and went on until almost midnight. This tradition of Tamada is typically Georgian, passing around a horn from which to drink, growing more abstract and effusive in praise as the evening wears on.
I've had a fantastic but long second day in Tbilisi. I've been struck by the almost innocent generosity and hospitality of the Georgians. It's the first country I've been to in a long time where if you take a picture of someone, they smile rather than ask you for money.
In the morning I went to the market, my idea of heaven. There is a divide on this trip: myself and @foodstories are rather more interested in the food but the wine bloggers, who speak in their own language, gargling and swirling drink around in their mouths while staring into space or frowning at each  other, or into their glasses, prefer to drink. This trip has been organised by Isabelle Legeron, a passionate advocate for Natural  Wines, different from organic wines in that they are made without any additives, yeasts or sulphites (the stuff that gives you a headache). Georgia has revived the ancient tradition of Natural Wine over the last five years; they mature their wines in Kvevri, large terracotta pots or amphorae, sometimes containing five tons, an ancestral method before wine was kept in wooden barrels. This ancient technique can be compared to making sourdough, the natural flora is used to ferment the wine.. The first evidence of wine-making was found in Georgia, 5000 BC. This, along with the lack of additives, gives the wine a very different character, particularly the 'orange' wines, which are fermented with the skins of the grapes to give a certain tawny colour.

Traditional bread oven a bit like a tandoori, they press the dough onto the walls of the inside of the oven.
These are like capers
The chickens are yellow, probably corn-fed, and have large feet.
Chocolate moulds
Disks of bees wax
They love a bit of Fablon in these old markets don't they?
Fruit leather
Red and green sauce, tkmali, which is made with mirabelle plums; the green are unripe and sour, the red and purple are riper and sweeter.
Propolis and honey
Pickle seller

Seeds for planting are sold loose by the egg cup
Sunflower seeds are a popular snack
Churchkela seller: these are strings of walnuts dipped repeatedly in concentrated grape juice which forms a skin.

Tea hut
The cheese tends to be very salty

My booty from the market; seeds and some roots which die eggs red (more on this later)
Sometimes the wind kicked up!
After the market, we had our first 'Supra' (feast) at a restaurant called The Bread Oven, in fact we didn't stop eating all day. We saw the opening of a Kvevri in our honour and a stunning performance of polyphony singing by two eight year old girls.

Orange wine by Malkhaz Jakeli.
Steamed dumplings
Feast on a barrel prepared for us while we were tasting wines by Mamuka Mzhavanadze
The Georgian cross is unusual: you notice the arms turn downwards and it's bound together with a rope. The legend behind this is that St. Nino used a grapevine to form a cross and bound it with her hair.
Phanduri, a traditional Georgian instrument

Walnut is used extensively in Georgian cooking; here we have beetroot, leeks and spinach mixed with a walnut paste and cabbage, aubergine and peppers stuffed with walnut paste.
Trout with pomegranate sauce, rather too sweet I felt. Last year I did a fish dish with sour cherries for a 'Russian' meal. 
Notations on the bottle of Natural wine
Sturgeon, boiled and smoked slices
A home built still for making eau de vie. I want one!
Opening the kvevri, which is a giant terracotta pot lowered into the ground. Here you see just the top.

Georgians often drink from shallow terracotta bowls, which reminds me of how they used to drink chai on Indian trains.
We heard some polyphonic singing in the church. The atmosphere was very casual, informal.  People wandering up and down, going up the front to hear the singers, sitting around chatting. It was very commun
Another toast, drinking from the 'horn' at the house of Giorgi Barisahvili. He also gives us a wine to taste that is made from 110 varieties of grape.
That Crazy Frenchwoman Isabelle Legeron. 
You can buy tickets to the Raw Wine Fair in May here:
You can buy tickets for my Georgian meal (aided and abetted by fellow food blogger @foodstories) at the Large Glass Gallery with Natural Wine selected by Isabelle Legeron here:


  1. Lovely post, Kirstin. I loved Georgia, I found it very innocent and vibrant. They still have something the rest of us have lost I think. Look forward to following the rest of your trip.

  2. Really enjoyed these photos, it's a country I know nothing about so very interesting.. Enjoy!

  3. Those pictures of the market make me want to get on a plane and fly straight there (even after reading about your flight). It looks wonderful.

  4. Fantastic photos, Kerstin - I particularly love the pickles piled up in the plastic bowls, and the many ways with walnuts

  5. What fabulous images...loving al your posts on Georgia...I have to share these!

  6. Brilliant pics! Especially the lady with the pigs trotters (?), the broken window and wine glass, and the lunch table with many hands!

  7. We had those dumplings at the Orient Expressrestaurant in St Petersburg, very odd place, the doorman tells you you must leave by midnight and they play train sounds in the loo


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