We arrived in Sighnaghi, a small town in the main wine growing region of Kakheti.
Many of us in the West have no idea of how closely connected Georgia and wine are.
As far as Georgians are concerned, they invented wine thousands of years ago. Wherever you go throughout the country, you see vines, and in the Kakheti region, vines are almost all you see – they are everywhere. Georgia has always been a major wine producer, and in Soviet times Georgia exported huge amounts to Russia. Times have worsened though – Russia has embargoed Georgian wines, and the wine production has fallen by half. Georgia is now looking to the west as a new market.
We love good wine and we were keen to try it in Georgia. There are tens if not hundreds of local varieties, and the varieties we saw we had never seen elsewhere. They were top class, and cheap. We only saw real wine stores in Tbilisi and Batumi, and these rivalled any that we have seen elsewhere – with professional service and hundreds of choices. In addition to wine we discovered the local firewater very appropriately called cha-cha. A great name for something that is almost pure alcohol. It comes in skins, special jars, you name it – just not in regular bottles.
Wine is more than a drink in Georgia – it is an essential part of life, much like it is in many parts of Europe. One of the most important pieces of Georgian life is the Toast – this is a real ceremony, and can go on for hours. Traveling with kids, we felt certain that this was a side of Georgia that we would not see, but we were wrong.
While rural Kakheti is beautiful, the towns, like so many in Georgia seem only half alive, with very little traffic and hardly any people evident. Would Sighnaghi be any different?
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