While Matt is rocking out to ‘Gotta Get Up’ by Harry Nilsson and sipping on a glass (or two) of Matias Riccitelli “The Party” Malbec 2017, I’m kicking things off with a food and wine pairing series tied to an unsung history. This week I am taking a journey into the past while enjoying an often decadent, gooey, cheese-filled goodness – Khachapuri – paired with Tsolikauri 2017 by Baia’s Wine from Imereti, Georgia—
As you all know by now, I grew up in the country of Georgia. If you’ve met me at the shop, this is most likely the first thing you’ve learned about me (insert proud face here). So, I figured that before I move forward with this series, where I’d like to discuss and break down all things wine and food in our everyday lives, I would like to briefly touch on my cultural heritage as so my passion for the industry can become a little clearer to you.
And here we go…
To say the least, Georgia has a very complex, yet extraordinary history. Nestled between the towering Caucasus Mountains and the deep Black Sea, it has been a strategic location along the silk road between Europe, Asia, Russia, and the Middle East. This country of mine has been fought over for centuries. However, after all these years, it has kept true to its identity, culture, and iconic winemaking history and traditions – dating back at least 8,000 years.
Georgians LOVE their wine and that’s an understatement. Subsequently, we don’t really just have a glass of wine (or any alcoholic beverage really) without an accompaniment of ALL things food. Now, If you ever get a chance to visit and experience Georgian supra (the ultimate Georgian feast) at its purest form, you’ll realize that no written book or article can entirely describe the real-life experience.
I will attempt to portray it to you but keep in mind that supra has been part of my everyday life and for that reason, I find describing it a little more challenging. You would think it would be an easy task because of my exposure but the magic lies in the new faces that are introduced to this celebration!
The long table is spread with fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens. Cold dishes of eggplants, spinach, and beets mixed with walnuts and native spices. Traditional skewered meats (mtsvadi), a variety of Khachapuri (Cheese filled bread), lobiani (bread with bean-based filling), and an occasional khinkali (soup dumplings), creating a dynamic sea of colors and deliciousness. The abundance of bread, freshly baked, with a delicate charring achieved only by the sides of a clay tone oven and that sulguni cheese, cleansing and pairing with every sip. Supra is a night of freedom and joy, yet it is quite structured. The meriqife is tasked with keeping everyone’s glass full of wine while tamada (the Toastmaster) leads the feast with philosophical toasts with an intent of getting those glasses empty. Praises of the past, present, and future are honored with a drink while hearts merge together into a euphoric experience of family – regardless of who you are or where you come from. It is about the relationships that blossom as a result of displaying our humanity for all to see. In short, collective celebration and merriment is the essence of supra, the occasion where everyone comes together to enjoy each other’s company and feast.
Wine is inextricably part of my culture, and having a glass of it with food is ceremonial. Very little can compare to that happy medium I find myself in when the pairing of food and wine is done right. Hence, I find joy in the process of crafting fancy meals that go with specific wines I pick on random days of the week. So today, here I am, a little nostalgic enjoying that homemade Khachapuri (aforementioned decadent, cheese filled awesomeness) with a great Georgian wine made by one of the very few female commercial winemakers of the country – Baia’s Wine Tsolikauri 2017. Tsolikauri is an indigenous grape varietal and is mostly planted in the Imereti region. After the grapes are picked, sorted, and de-stemmed the wine is pressed and put in qvevri (terra cotta, egg-shaped amphora-like vessel that is placed in the ground). With about three months of maceration and only thirty percent skin contact, this wine is a great introduction to a skin contact wines of Georgia. It is dry and invigorating with beautiful aromas of persimmons, honey, and citrus peel followed by slight tannins and an exceptional minerality.
Gagimarjot (Cheers to you)!
P.S. I would love to share Khachapuri recipe with you, but I’m going to need to walk you through it since local assortment of cheeses that are needed are not availably in the states. So, find me at the shop and I’ll fill you in on how to come as close as possible to the real deal with the medley of ingredients we have access to.