Georgia: Tasting the Food, Culture and Wine
A New Tour Takes You Through the Heart of Wine Country
By Steffi Porter
Georgia, a country with a population of nearly five million, is the destination of the “Food, Culture and Wine” tour beginning October 8, 2014.
On this journey, tourists will get to soak in a lively and unique culture, and experience the remarkably fresh food and homemade wine that Georgians have been perfecting in this country for thousands of years.
Max Johnson of the Great Canadian Travel Company, which is spearheading this tour, says Georgia is an ideal travel destination, rich with culture, scenery, food and history.
Having visited ten times over the last five years, Johnson said he “fell in love with the country” and could not wait to go back every time he left. And he continued to return—hiking, drinking, eating and getting to know the country, which he says has “such a defined and strong culture.”
Georgia, a country burrowed in the scenic Caucasus Mountains, combines the old fashioned charm of an ancient culture with the modern opportunities of current tourism, without losing its authenticity.
The Food Culture and Wine tour is a new creation of the Great Canadian Travel Company, who are hoping for a small group of fifteen or sixteen participants. On the company’s first ever food and wine tour of Georgia, people can expect to see first-hand the ancient monasteries, contemporary wineries, and picturesque landscapes, in a country that melds together aspects of European, Asian and the Middle Eastern culture.
Food: Organic, Fresh and Chemical-Free
As in most countries, you can tell a lot about Georgia and its people by the food they consume. The Food, Culture and Wine tour will include learning about the country’s traditions and resources through eating a range of different delicacies.
As Johnson explained, the food in Georgia is unlike the food in many other locales. Unlike in some more Westernized countries, where freshness is at times hard to come by, and natural, preservative and chemical-free food, even harder, food in Georgia is always fresh.
Georgia is too poor to buy chemicals, Johnson said. Food there is based seasonally, serving meats like veal, pork and river fish, “extraordinary” vegetables, and lots of walnuts. The food, he said, is “innovative” and “imaginative,” not to mention delicious.
Among the diverse foods sampled on this tour will be a large variety of cheeses, freshly baked bread, Georgia’s famous meat dumplings, cheese pies and lamb, chicken, beef or turkey stews. Tourists will also explore marketplaces and the winding streets of the country’s villages.
Participants will get to try this one-of-a-kind cuisine throughout their eight-day journey, concluding with what is known in Georgia as a Supra Feast.This feast is a Georgian tradition, with many different dishes present and a large quantity of wine.
This significant aspect of Georgian culinary and social culture can be hosted for two different occasions: celebratory and mournful. The celebratory Supra, a festive occasion is known as “Keipi” and the somber one, held after burials, called “Kelekhi.”
The History & Fascinating Modern Life of Georgia
Christianity was established in Georgia in 327 AD, in the ancient, royal, religious capital of the country known as Mtskheta. The tour will take its participants to this region, to view an “experimental vine collection,” of 400 plus Georgian grape varieties unique to Georgia. Tourists will also see a folkloric show and a concert featuring polyphonic singing, a style unique to Georgian culture.
Georgia is, according to Johnson, one of the greatest countries in the world to travel to at this time.
“There is a relatively well developed tourist infrastructure, good hotels, multilingual guides, half decent roads, great food, great wine, interesting sights, markets completely different from North America,” he said.
This unique, fascinating country has not lost its character, and is to this day “unspoiled” by tourism, though Johnson said it won’t be quite as preserved in its culture for long.
“It still has the feeling that you’re on the cutting edge but we know everyone is going to be safe and looked after,” said Johnson. “It has such a defined and strong culture, which is really the most important thing about the country.”
Johnson said the idea for this tour came about after he attended a conference in Georgia on traditional winemaking in June of this past year.
“I’d been there really looking at the history and culture of the place and I had no idea of the scope of the culinary side of Georgia. With some of the people [at the conference] we decided to add food and culture together with wine and promote this kind of three-pronged attack.”
According to Johnson, just about everybody who visits Georgia says leaves saying they will return one day. “It’s really uncanny.”
The Oldest Known Site of Winemaking
The Georgian people have been making their own wine for thousands of years, sulfite and preservative-free. Winemaking is a huge aspect of Georgian life and the culture of this country, and has been for thousands of years.
In fact, archeologists discovered evidence that wine was made there over 8,000 years ago—the oldest known example of winemaking in the world.
The wine portion of the tour will also take travelers to Tbilsi, the capital city and largest city in Georgia, where they will be introduced to Georgian wine at an underground wine bar. This city has about 1.5 million inhabitants, and sits on the southeastern edge of Europe.
The escort on the journey through Georgia is an expert in Georgian Wine, and will take the tour group through wine country, where hundreds of different grape varieties are grown, different types unique to different villages. The weather in Georgia is ideal for grape-growing and winemaking with extreme weather very rare, summers short and winters mild.
Tourists will get to see the 1,000-year-old wine cellar at the Alaverdi Monastery, Kakheti, Georgia’s winemaking capital, and the Pheasant’s Tears winery, which is famously one of the oldest wineries in the world, and produces its wine in clay pots called “qvervri,” and are sold in the United States and in Canada.
Steffi Porter is a creative writer and journalist who has written for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hearst Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle. She is a former writer and editor for her college paper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and an alumnus of the Institute for Political Journalism and the Fund for American Studies.