I’d be interested in any comments, suggestions etc about travelling to Kakheti and other Georgian vineyards.
I did this with Arblaster & Clarke(just after A &C ceased to be in charge) a couple of years ago, and visiting would be really a wonderful chance to see a variety of different approaches (traditional or international grapes with trad. or modern production in all permutations). Even then some producers were clearly set up for visitors, so you probably wouldn’t need a tour group for access (although I am not sure the qvevri producer we saw is likely to be accessible): presumably more are opening by now, and there are wine bars in Tbilisi to give you more ideas and opportunities. (And of course other things to see and do while you are there.) I suggest some time with a few wine lists (there are specialist Georgian wine distributors as well as the inevitable Caves de Pyrene) to get ideas, and then check which producers have web presence.
There’s a rather good chapter on vineyard visits in Georgia in the Lonely Planet “Wine Trails” book (which is a lovely book in any case). Never been myself, but would love to hear back if/when you go.
Are you going on an organised tour, or doing this independently? I would suggest getting a guide - it is not an easy place to get around when you can’t read the signs (by OMG the writing is so beautiful!)
I went there once, many moons ago and loved it. Such a beautiful country and fantastic history.
A very good friend of mine organises travel there, in case you are looking for contacts - I recommend her highly and she is very passionate about the place, the people and the wines
Many thanks for all your helpful suggestions… I had been planning on going with a tour around September time. As you say Robert, I’m sure it’s a challenge trying to get about solo… so am just feeling my way at the moment… and trying to come up with the best solution… thanks for the Lonely Planet tip…
Will report back soon…
Just don’t be alarmed if a local produces a revolver and places it on the table!!
Apparently firearms are or were legal 10 years ago when I was there….
I would also second what @robert_mcintosh has said about navigating around and the suggestion of a guide
A more likely problem is singing, but I am told that some people actually like this.
The singing, the good, the hospitality, and the dancing are second to none. If you get invited to a proper supra, go! (It might help if you’ve prepared a short toast of some sort that you could give, … Something to thank your hosts and recognise your fellow travellers, as you might be called upon to give one)
I wasn’t able to attend one, but did have dinner with a great singer who invited me to join him in some polyphonic singing (he may have regretted it later)
Georgia is wonderful! Certainly one of my favourite countries - make sure to try cha-cha, khachapuri in all its forms and the traditional sweets made by dipping strings of nuts in a sort of wine syrup. I found it OK getting around by myself, though I did speak some Russian and had learnt the Georgian alphabet. I think tourism has really taken off there in the past few years, so would imagine levels of spoken English have improved!
I believe A&C have only done one tour to Georgia so far, in which case we must have met on that! (Ah, just noticed you said you visited a couple of years ago. We went last year.)
A&C used a local tour company called Living Roots - one of John Wurdeman’s business interests - for the arrangements in Georgia. We are returning to Georgia in May, booking our own flights and having Living Roots put together a private tour for two, with non-wine-specialist guide and car, hotel accommodation and most meals. The two trips are not directly comparable, but this year’s private trip will work out cheaper.
We specifically wanted to see regions other than Kakheti as we visited Kakheti last year, and that did not seem to be an option with any pre-organised tours. But if you want to do Kakheti (and you probably should) there are quite a number of companies that will take you from Tbilisi for various lengths of time.
If you want to travel by public transport, or for general information on Georgia, I can strongly recommend the Bradt Guide. If you are feeling adventurous that is a definite possibility, but not for me I think. Well - possibly next time.
As @Mooble hinted, if you know any Russian and/or the Georgian alphabet it would help. English is spoken by younger people, and in hotels and restaurant, but often not fluently. For example, a Tbilisi pharmacist knew basic English, but did not understand the English for being sick, or the more Latin term antiemetic, so we finished up having to mime throwing up.
I have written quite a lot about Georgia on my blog recently, so I would suggest you take a look there www.winenous.co.uk. Click on “georgia” in the tag cloud or search for it. Even if you do not like my writing, you will find links to other resources from some of the posts. Feel free to get back to me if you have more detailed questions.
Most importantly - do visit. I don’t think you will regret it.
I’ll be interested to know how your private trip works out. Seeing other areas sounds a good idea. (We were also delegated to Wurdeman, although it had been advertised as Tim C: John certainly knows the subject, but it meant a rather one sided view of Georgian wine. Maybe Robert would have enjoyed all the polyphony, but it is an acquired taste which I haven’t acquired.)
I’ll second the ‘do visit’, and not just for the wine.
I agree with your comments about John W. But overall it was probably the best and most influential wine trip I have undertaken. Oh, and I did like the singing, and dancing.
I visited Tbilisi in 1979 and remember enjoying Tsinindali, a dry white. The city is very attractively situated in a narrow valley. At the end of my stay I took a bus to Erevan, capital of Armenia, only a few hours away through beautiful hill country, which I recommend, with some very old Armenian churches en route.
If you want to try Tsinindali before you go, I noticed it on the wine list at Tamada, Georgian restaurant in NW8.
Its pretty much all I could get my hands on while living in Baku. The wines I drank were off dry and reasonably pleasant.