Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 November
We were enjoying the wine of Georgia and couldn’t help but investigate it further. We hired a four wheel drive, anticipating icy roads, and set of east to Kakheti – the wine region.
Sure enough we climbed over the Tetri Tsklebi pass where recent snow left a wonderland of white and slippery roads. Bruce had thought this might be good experience in preparation of Iceland at Christmas. Just getting behind a wheel would be enough.
Our first night was at the Schuchmann Wine Chateau. This was a real treat, to stay on a vineyard. It was a busy place as it was bottling time. Trucks coming and going, full of wine. But we were the only guests. We had a magnificent two level apartment, complete with a fireplace and real firewood. It was cold so the fire was welcome.
We ate in the restaurant – just the two of us. Same at breakfast. It would have been nice to share the experience with someone else.
Georgian wine is made using two different methods. The first and more modern method is known around the world. The other ancient method is believed to have developed 8000 years ago in Neolithic times. Fermented grape juice is stored in a clay vessel called a Kvevri, with a wooden lid, and then buried in the ground. The juice is left for some period of time – months or years. The resulting wine, without chemicals, is a little cloudy and with a more earthy taste, but very, very good. We tried the same varieties made with both methods and found little difference in the quality.
Our second stop in the Kakheti region was in the largest town of Telavi. Here we found a 900 year old tree, a weird snail sculpture made out of bolts and spanners and a statue to King Erakli II. During his period of rule in 1744 – 1798 Telavi grew into a strategic and cultural centre which had an impact on the whole of Georgia.
Between rain and drizzle we toured the region. It is a flat valley where vines grow near the Alazani River. It is also poor, many farms appeared to be surviving on subsistence living. But the Kakheti region is the most visited in Georgia and a popular area to go wine tasting. Perhaps tourism will eventually deliver some financial rewards.
Perhaps the prettiest part of the Kakheti region is the little town of Sighnaghi, sitting high in the bordering mountains and full of 18th and 19th century buildings. The town was originally developed in the 18th century by King Erekli II, in part as a refuge against invaders. In the past few years it has been remodelled as a tourist town. We arrived there late in the day and it was in the clouds. We found a place to have coffee and Georgian Walnut Cake.
After an interesting three days in the Kakheti region we drove over the snowy Tetri Tsklebi pass to the airport. Our Gamin GPS simply didn’t know where the airport was. It was logic and sheer luck that we delivered a very muddy four-wheel drive to the airport before our next stop in Istanbul.
Links in this page are from Wikipedia.