Pilgrimage n. – any journey taken by a person to a sacred place for religious reasons – The Concise Oxford Dictionary
It was already decided that when we do make that journey to the East, that we would do a wine pilgrimage. And how can we not? We’re in Kakheti, the mecca of Georgian wine, where people here are said to have endless barrels of wine in their cellars. It’s probably not true, but we like to think so. After all, since Miss Hoggy and friend’s arrival in Signaghi, that’s all we’ve been thinking: “Is the wine in Kakheti much better than the ones in the West?” Curious? Come and be a pilgrim yourself.
Being a pilgrim of wine was not expected out of Miss Hoggy at all. After all, if you keep reading on, you would realise that it’s just another wine tour, like ones you would go in the Barossa in South Australia, or Bordeaux. But looking on to some of the exhibits in a local wine museum, wine is no longer a commercial product; it’s a way of life. With thousands of years of wine making behind your back, you can boast of very ‘old things’.
“Old things”, as the only Russian phrase that she could partially understood from her guide was exactly the sentiment of wine making techniques in Kakheti: the qvevri, the claypots that are buried in the ground to ferment the wine. Jogging your memory? Maybe a certain Roman ruin can nudge you the right direction. Yeah, the old things make this wine tour just a little bit sacred.
While you’re fixing that memory of yours, at the mean time, you should forget those French name that the Western foodies love to spout on TV: Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot. Just for a while, because the name of Georgian wines are, well, Georgian. Instead, names of their grape varieties sound like Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane (the whites) and Saperavi (the reds). You might think: “Oh such hard names, they wouldn’t catch on, not in international markets. No, they wouldn’t.” And you’re… wrong.
The Kakhetian wines market is growing slowly and steady and it’s now proudly exported to 13 countries around the world, including Japan, Canada and the United States. And the last I heard was, some Australian wineries are growing Saperavi. I must say, I did have the best Saperavi and Rkatsiteli during my stay here in Kakheti, and would love to be able to access them in Australia. Well, well, I’d say these Easterners are talking about serious wine business.
Serious business is Georgian wine making trademark, the claypot fermentation. It definitely has its perks.
And now that my friend, being in Nekrisi, looking on on these qvevris, makes this whole wine experience in Kakheti, more than a tour. It’s borderline religious, a pilgrimage, when you know what the monks did here on their spare time. As Ben would said it: “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
And verdict: the wines here in Kakheti are way better than the ones in the West.
Again, thank you for Liane for your amazing pictures. They sure made this post prettier.
And also, without you, half of these adventures in the East wouldn’t have happened.