The other week, I lamented on a blog about Tbilisoba how it was lacking in the folk character that I had come to know and love about the festival. Tbilisoba, as I had remembered it from years ago, was more than just eating grilled pork mcvadi on the street side and listening to karaoke music from some former child stars. There used to be folk dancing and singing, wine everywhere, and more.
Lucky for me, the very next weekend (October 14th) we accidentally stumbled into the second annual Georgian Wine Festival.
droves of people at the wine festival
Though it was small by comparison and limited only to the Chardeni district, it was all that I was hoping for from Tbilisoba. There was the Georgian folk singing, dancing, and even free wine! Yes, you read that right. At the second festival organized by allwine.ge and the Maidan Group, there were some 20 Georgian wine producers each serving four or five of their wines to anyone who wanted to try, alongside dozens of tables full of handmade Georgian crafts. We got to sample some of the lesser known (but rising stars of the Georgian grapes) like Tsolikouri, a white wine closer to Chardonnay than the usually sour Rkatsiteli, and also a qvevri wine by Tbilvino from the Kisi grape.
a miniature qvevri on a display at the festival
Qvevri wines have a really unique taste. Instead of being made in oak barrels, as is the tradition in the west, they’re made in qvevris, big clay amphorae that they bury in the ground. The entire winemaking process occurs in the qvevri, from the fermentation to the maturation, and they often leave the skins and grape stems inside which make increasingly complex and interesting flavors. The qvevri is coated with beeswax in the inside to help seal the clay and make it easier to clean.
a working and intricate "wine fountain"
The fermentation process starts a few days after the grapes and juice are put into the qvevri, and you have to break up the grapes and stems about twice a day during this time (a process I got to help in at my friend’s house where we went just after the festival, though that wasn’t in a qvevri but in a big plastic tun as seen in the pic). After the fermentation process, they move the wine to clean qvevris for storage and maturation.
mixing the wine
that girl looks like she's a bit jealous of the festival participants
The Kisi wine we had, which is a dry white, had a strange pale taste at the beginning, and then a nice grape aftertaste (I’m obviously by no means a wine critic, but I do drink a lot, and I can tell you I enjoyed it).
another view of the festival
Hopefully this festival continues to go on. The place was packed and it seems to me it was a great success, and having the opportunity to try a few new grapes has opened up my palette when shopping for home now. I remember living in Tbilisi before and the wines on market were the pretty dull, common ones here used for feasting, unless you were willing to pay a premium.
However, now it’s starting to become clear in local Tbilisi life that Georgia really is the cradle of wine, and a plethora of new and reborn grape varieties are entering the market at all levels. That said, what I’d like to see at the festival next year is just more space for it. It was such a success that I think it’s clear that they should devote the entire district to the festival, with more tables for crafts and food as well.
lots of tables full of crafts
a guy playing a traditional Georgian bagpipe and a changuri
If you’re in Georgia for the first time and unfortunately not for the wine festival, then stop by ღVino Underground for a real wine tour of the country all in one shop (two of the waitresses there went on to become professional winemakers themselves, so to say the staff know their wines is really an understatement!).