Monday, September 27, 2010

Wine Making 101 - Georgian Style!

Disclaimer: I am not a wine expert.  As a matter of fact, I don't like the taste of wine (or beer) and in the states I rarely drink.  In Georgia the wine tastes a little sweeter so I enjoy it in moderation.  While my sister and her husband are wine-makers I couldn't tell you the first thing about wine-making.  After today, that still holds true.

I enjoy walking home from school.  I can look back on the day's lessons and begin to mentally prepare for tomorrow.  It also gives me some personal time which I may or may not get when I arrive home.  For you Seinfeld fans, I compare living with a Georgian family to Jerry Seinfeld living next door to Kramer - you never know what crazy scheme he's cooking up.  When I arrive home, lunch is waiting for me.  It's the usual fare - bread (puri), bologna (calbasa), chicken (qatami), potato salad - and a new item: fish!  The good news is I informed my family I didn't like fish so I didn't feel too guilty turning it down.  Living in a coastal town I feel bad that they haven't served fish the first month I have been here.  I know the entire family loves seafood so I told the father the previous night that they should not cook fish on my account.  It did look delicious though and I have to say I have never seen fish cooked whole.

Pan-fried fish - head, bones, and all!

After lunch I went upstairs to lay down and take a nap which turned out to be short-lived.  My host brother Giorgi called me to go to the bazaar with him and his father, Rolandi.  I wanted to buy some more stickers for school so I thought this would be a good trip.  As you will notice from previous posts, driving in Georgia is not a point A to point B process.  It's usually point A to points, F, Z, X, C, and N, and then finally to point B.  Even more bizarre is that while some of these points are in close proximity to each other, you  might drive from one side of town to the other, return to the original spot, only to turn right back around and drive to the far side of town again!  There is no rhyme or reason.

On this trip we head downtown and pick up Nato (mom) from the dentist.  We then drive down to the port and and park for a few minutes while Rolandi (father) runs an errand.  We then proceed to drive to a family friend's (Mindia) house but on the way we pass by the only Catholic church in Batumi.  I didn't have my camera but I did mark the location on my GPS so I can find it again.  After dropping Nato off at Mindia's house, we finally make it to the bazaar - which turns out to be more of a farmer's market.  It is here I learn that we are buying grapes (qkhurdzeni) to make wine.  The first batch of grapes we look at gets a thumbs-down by Rolandi.  We wait about fifteen minutes while he looks around and then we drive further into the market where he finds his grapes of choice.  To me, they all look the same but to an experienced eye, I'm sure there is a difference.  They are mostly green with some red mixed-in.

Bagging the grapes.

While they start filling bags with the grapes I notice a taxi pull up.  Giorgi tells me that the taxi will bring home the grapes.  Only after they filled all fourteen bags did I realize we did not have enough room in our car.  In total we bought 350 kilograms of grapes (772 pounds) for 350 Lari ($190 or 25 cents per pound).  We load up taxi with the grapes and Giorgi accompanies the driver home while Rolandi and I pick up Nato.  At home, we unload the grapes from the car. It's about 5 pm at this point when I think we are done for the day but it appears we are just getting started.  I help Nina (grandma) clean out the huge barrel which will hold the grapes and then we bring out six huge jugs which will hold the wine.  Rolandi and Alex work on setting up the grape press.  After everything is set up, we start loading grapes into the hopper.  Alex does the majority of the pressing while the brothers and I dump the grapes.

Alex, Guarami, and Giorgi.

After about an hour we are done pressing the grapes.  It is here that I learn they plan to fill the jugs with this "first press" of grape juice.  This is the premium wine.  Sugar and water is added to the remaining grape peels which then ferments for a month to produce a lower quality wine.  To celebrate the wine making, we end the day with a mtsvadi (BBQ) supra (party) and tonight it's chicken!  After a quick shower and walk to the market for soda, we move the tables to the upstairs balcony for dinner.  Georgian supras can go on for hours and this one was no exception.  After the first round of food (and maybe a half dozen toasts), Alex's parents stop by and we have a second round of food and maybe a dozen more toasts.  By 10:30 pm, I am exhausted and head to bed just as Peso (Guarami's friend) stops by for more food and drink.


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