Amazing Experiences You Can Only Have in Georgia
- 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
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.
1. Introduction to Georgian Wine: More Than Just Wine Tastings
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.
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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
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
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.
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4. Introduction to the art of qvevri-making: Meet a master ceramicist and tour his studio
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
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
Fall in love with this part of the world on MIR’s small group tours to Georgia:
- A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture– recognized by National Geographic Traveler!
- Treasures of the South Caucasus (watch a tour video)
- Village Traditions of the South Caucasus
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