In September, I had the opportunity to go to Georgia on a tour for wine buyers. I was lucky enough to meet Beka Gotsadze of Gotsa and have one of the most quintessentially Georgian experiences of my entire trip.
On the first night, we went to Gotsa Winery in the mountains above Tbilisi, greeted by a boisterous group comprised of winemaker, wife, dogs, and kids milling around a few old qvevri. We made our way to the cellar – first the upper room full of fermentation qvevri and then the lower room with the qvevri for aging – while Beka’s wife, Nina, gently teased him about his English (hers is perfect, of course).
After tasting a mix of 2014 and 2015 vintages with cheese and bread provided to soak up the wine, we moved on to tasting what Beka likes to call his “experiments.” First, a Tsitska petillant naturel that was yeasty and rich with a lightness and acidity that was surprising, given it had just been bottled to finish off its fermentation. Then, some more Tsitska under flor in qvevri. And a few sips of 2015 Chinuri – bright, herbaceous and firmly tannic – to finish with before our supra.
Having only heard of Georgian style dinner parties before, I thought I was prepared for the supra. Not so. Wine glasses never went empty, food kept coming. First, vegetables and eggplants with walnut paste and pickles, then stews and olives, and then mtsvade (pork grilled over dried grape vines). And of course to finish the meal, chacha – Georgia’s answer to grappa. It was like finishing off a meal with cognac, only we were in Georgia and nothing is nearly that pretentious there.
After songs and chacha and Beka hurriedly taking us down to taste an experimental fortified wine that he’s playing with, we finally had to leave and descend the mountain. But what an auspicious first meal to begin what would be the best trip of my life!