Amazing Experiences You Can Only Have in Georgia

Amazing Experiences You Can Only Have in Georgia

The bounteous country of Georgia in the South Caucasus is a heaven-on-earth kind of place. Georgia has everything a traveler could want:

  • Miles of Black Sea coast where tea, roses, and citrus fruits flourish
  • Lush, verdant valleys where local families raise their own fruits, vegetables, pigs, sheep, and cattle
  • A wide swath of prime wine country where archaeological discoveries suggest Georgians pioneered the art of winemaking in 6,000 BC
  • Majestic mountain peaks where skiers and hikers alike enjoy unencumbered vistas from the heights of the Caucasus Mountains
  • A cosmopolitan capital where fashion, haute cuisine, and cultural events proliferate
Hundreds of medieval watchtowers dot the remote landscape of Svaneti Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

Hundreds of medieval watchtowers dot the remote landscape of Svaneti
Photo credit: Paul Schwartz

Now is the best time to travel to the Republic of Georgia. It’s gaining steam as a must-see destination thanks to an ever-expanding list of travel expert recommendations and acclaim. Go see it for yourself before this under-the-radar destination hits the big time.

Experience the Best of Georgia:
A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture

Join award-winning food and wine writer Carla Capalbo on a culinary and cultural small group tour through gorgeous Georgia. Traverse varied landscapes abounding in hospitality and discover the living traditions of this country through its chefs, winemakers, artisans, and musicians.

MORE TOUR DETAILS AND PHOTOS

 

Check out this list of 5 wonderful experiences you can only have in the gorgeous and welcoming country of Georgia on MIR’s A Taste of Georgia small group tour.

 

1. Introduction to Georgian Wine: More Than Just Wine Tastings

The group chatting during our introduction to Georgian wine.Photo: Mariana Noble

Travelers chat during their introduction to Georgian wine
Photo: Mariana Noble

Wine tasting at Tbilisi’s Ghvino UndergroundWine is extremely important to Georgia. From a cultural standpoint, ghvino, the Georgian word for wine, is nearly synonymous with the country’s history and traditions. Through periods of invasion and Sovietization, Georgia clung to the production of wine as a celebration of its heritage. The toast, gaumarjos, which translates to both “cheers” and “victory,” is a clear representation of this point, as the country links the drink and its production to a celebration of the nation’s survival.

In order to gain a better understanding of this heritage, dip down into the cool cellar wine bar Ghvino Underground for a tasting of wines from across Georgia. Ghvino Underground was the first natural wine bar in Tbilisi. It was established by a group of local wine producers to introduce Georgia’s best natural wines to Tbilisi’s visitors and locals, and has since become a must-visit destination in the country’s capital for oenophiles and for those who wish to learn more about Georgian wine. Here you will be able to sample a variety of wines from different terroirs and regions, and learn more about the country’s wine-making tradition from host and natural wine-maker, John Wurdeman.

(click on photo to see a larger version)


A visit to a wine cellar with a tasting in the town of ChardakhiMarina Kurtanidze is Georgia’s first female owner of a wine company. Her enterprise, Mandili, first began selling its product in 2012. She and her husband, Iago Bitarishvili, are well-known natural wine producers who age their wines in qvevri, the 200 to 900-gallon earthenware vessels used for fermenting and storing Georgian wines. She has received numerous accolades from international experts and wine connoisseurs, and also serves as an inspiration for other women who make wine in Georgia.

Enjoy a tour and tasting of Mandili’s vintages, while meeting and conversing with Marina, as well as other female wine-makers.

 

2. Introduction to Georgian Cuisine: A supra at Azarpesha in Tbilisi

Georgian table dinners are famous for their food and festive atmosphere. Photo: Douglas Grimes

Georgian table dinners are famous for their food and festive atmosphere
Photo: Douglas Grimes

After receiving instruction in the history and importance of Georgian wine, further immerse yourself in Georgia’s culture by attending a supra, or Georgian Table feast, at one of Tbilisi’s more popular restaurants, Azarpesha. The restaurant’s name is derived from the moniker for a wine maker’s silver tasting ladle, and it’s therefore no surprise that this establishment is a chic wine restaurant focused on highlighting contemporary Eastern Mediterranean/Georgian fusion cuisine. Azarpesha also aims to introduce its patrons to one of Georgia’s famed culinary traditions – the supra

Supra, which translates as “tablecloth” in Georgian, is a traditional feast meant to recognize an important event, meeting, or death. While these meals vary in size, two items remain constant: the table will be covered with numerous delicious dishes, and wine consumption will be led by a toastmaster, the tamada. This individual is selected by the supra’s host and is expected to expertly orchestrate a series of toasts throughout the meal. These feasts can last for hours and serve as an excellent way to venerate Georgia’s viticulture, cuisine, and hospitality traditions. And to enjoy consuming as much food and wine as is humanly possible – the only way to adequately show your appreciation.

More info and photos:

3. Introduction to Georgian polyphonic singing: Dinner with a local Svan family

Svaneti region, Georgia

A local singer dons the traditional highland gear of Svaneti

While visiting mountainous Svaneti, enjoy a dinner with a family in Mestia, and experience an intimate performance by local Svan polyphonic singers. Georgia has one of the oldest and most intriguing polyphonic vocal traditions in Europe.  Developed independently of Western European rules of harmony, Georgian vocal music has been passed down by ear for hundreds of years – possibly since the 5th century BC.  Its tuning system is based on fifths rather than octaves, giving its choral music a rich yet slightly discordant sound (to western ears). 

The traditional structure of these old songs incorporates one voice singing the high part, one in the middle and one or two taking the low part, often a drone. Each of Georgia’s ethnic regions has its own typical harmony and way of singing. In Svaneti, the songs are startlingly non-western and are often accompanied by traditional dances.

More info and photos:

 

4. Introduction to the art of qvevri-making: Meet a master ceramicist and tour his studio

Handmade qvevri on display at a Georgian vineyard. Photo: Mariana Noble

Handmade qvevri on display at a Georgian vineyard
Photo: Mariana Noble

Stop in at the workshop of a master ceramicist who makes qvevri, the earthenware vessels UNESCO added to their Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013, where you will learn more about qvevri-making. 

Due to the demands of the manufacturing process, each region of Georgia has only a few respected qvevri makers. The skills and knowledge necessary for producing qvevri are passed down from generation to generation, including where to source the best clay and how to properly mold, bake, maintain, and clean the vessels.

Increasing interest in Georgia’s natural and traditional wines has increased demand for these containers greatly in recent years, but only a handful can be produced each year. Depending on its size, one qvevri may take months to produce!


 

5. A Cooking Class and Vineyard Tour at Pheasant’s Tears

Pheasant's Tears Vineyard in Georgi. Photo: John Wurdeman

Pheasant’s Tears Vineyard in Georgia
Photo credit: John Wurdeman

Travel down to the village of Tibaani to take a walking tour of the Pheasant’s Tears’ vineyard, where they organically grow some of Kakheti’s oldest and most robust grape varieties. The name of the winery comes from a Georgian legend in which the hero claims that it takes a “wine beyond measure” to make a pheasant cry tears of joy. Wine connoisseurs are likely to recognize the name of Pheasant’s Tears’ co-owner and co-founder, John Wurdeman, whose efforts to promote Georgian qvevri wines around the world continues to bring international attention to the country’s cultural heritage and wine-making traditions. 

Host John Wurdeman leads you through the neat rows of laden grape vines, explaining that these time-honored varietals require no extra fertilizer or water, depending instead on deep roots that mine the earth for nutrients and underground moisture. He and other natural wine-makers in Georgia pick the grapes, quickly press them and pack them, along with ripe stems, skins and seeds, into the big underground qvevri to ferment. Periodically they use a wooden tool to push the skins and seeds back into the container from where they have migrated to the top. This is the ancient Georgian method, and it holds up well today, producing the characteristic tannin-rich feel and robust flavor of reds, whites, and amber natural wines.

More info and photos:
  • Pheasant’s Tears Winery: An Unforgettable Georgian Meal

Travel to Georgia with MIR
Hiking in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. Photo credit: Georgia Tourism Board.

Horse trekking in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia
Photo: Georgia Tourism Board

MIR has more than 30 years of unmatched destination expertise and travel planning experience, hand-crafting tours to Georgia and the South Caucasus since 1986.

Fall in love with this part of the world on MIR’s small group tours to Georgia:

You can also opt to travel on your dates and at your pace on one of MIR’s private independent trips or on a private journey of Georgia, customized to your desired dates and style.

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your  travels now.

 

Top photo: Late fall in the capital of wine country, Signagi, Georgia. Photo: Douglas Grimes

PUBLISHED: February 14, 2019

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