I love the Olympics. I always have. I think it’s the spirit of community or the idea of the world as a village that appeals to me so much. Of course, the athletic prowess of the competitors is beautiful and exciting to watch but that’s not what made me teary as I watched the opening ceremonies. I also love the medal ceremonies with everyone getting weepy as they sing their national anthem. Of course, I’m a softy but on Valentine’s Day, it’s okay to admit that. KD Lang’s version of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah was perfect and made me think of someone who is far away today but close to my heart. Mostly though, Friday was sad because of the Georgian Luger Norad Kumaritashvili’s death during a training run.
I thought I’d write about a winery from Georgia today on my blog. I came across this winery at Vinitaly last year in the building dedicated to foreign (non-Italian) wineries. Vinitaly is often accused of being less international than other fairs such as Pro Wein and Vinexpo, in Germany and France, respectively but they are working to address that. I love the building with the foreign wineries. It is never as crowded as the rest of the fair and I have always tried things that were a novelty to me. Georgia has been famous for its wines for centuries. It is widely accepted that wine making began in the Caucaus over 7000 years ago. Winemakers from all over the world make pilgrimages there to see the amphorae and the location where so much began. Josko Gravner is perhaps the most well known of these winemakers. He buries some of his wines in Amphora. Others have followed suit. Many people I know love these wines but I was not that familiar with them.
The Badagoni wine company was founded in 2002 in the village of Zemo Khodasheni in the Kakheti wine growing region. Badagoni concentrates on local grape varieties, most of which are not well know abroad. Badagoni is a large company, producing over one million bottles a year, and making it one of the largest in the Caucasus. The winery owns 300 hectares of vineyards in the areas of Tsinandati, Mukuzani, Akhaseni, Kindzmarauli and Manavi. Each area has a particular micro-climate, soil and terrain. Donato Lanati of Italy is their consulting wine maker.
Some of the wines that I tried included the Kakhetian Noble made from the Saperavi grape. The vineyard is located across the street from the Alaverdi Cathedral. The grape produces a deep ruby wine with black fruit notes. I also tasted a white from the same line but made with the Rkatsiteli grape. I have tried only one other example of this grape made by Konstantin Frank in the Finger Lakes in New York State. The Badagoni wine was great as is Konstantin Frank’s version. Another indigenous white variety used by Badagoni is the Mtsvane grape which is used to produce Manavi, a white wine in production since 1938. Light and fruity, the wine is made from grapes grown on the Gombori slopes of the Manavi micro-zone.
A wine cellar under the Alaverdi Cathedral was discovered some years ago. It contained 40 large clay vessels which were dug into the soil. Wine fermented in these vessels centuries ago. Badagoni is helping the government to restore the cellar.
The monks at the monastery have begun producing wine again. They are using these modern or redone urns, much like the ones of the past. It’s quite a spectacle to see photos of the monks stirring the wines.
I would be excited to visit Georgia and try these wines in situ but for the moment, I think I will have to just hope that they’ll be back at Vinitaly this April. Hopefully, I will also find some Georgian wines closer to home. I know very few people who have traveled to Georgia but one friend told me that the only thing to rival the Georgian wines is their food. Sounds like a destination to be explored to me.