Georgian wine on my mind (or Back in the USSR)

Above: a Russian tank in Prague in 1968 (photo by Josef Koudelka). Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy managed to convince the Russians to withdraw their tanks from Georgia. This morning, the title of the top story is “Russia, Pledging to Leave Georgia, Tightens Its Grip.”

This week’s images of Russian tanks rolling toward Tbilisi brought to mind the photograph above. I was just a toddler during the Prague Spring of 1968. The thought of a Russia-occupied Georgia is a chilling one that evokes another ominous moment in Czechoslovakia and Europe’s history, 1938.

On a day like today, it seems a feckless act to write about wine but as I’ve been thinking about Georgia, it occurred to me that I have tasted Georgian wines on a number of occasions and that Georgia is largely considered one of the cradles of western viticulture. When I lived in New York, I knew a lot of Russian folks. When I was their guest or they mine, a bottle of generally sweet Georgian wine often made an appearance the table. The wines were never very good but they were always served with memorable pride and pleasure. Jamie Goode wrote this short but informative post about Georgian wine a few years ago and the Wikipedia entry is useful as well.

Georgia and Georgian wine are on my mind.

George W. is also on my mind. He’s been mountain-biking in Crawford, Texas over the weekend. There’s a paradoxical saying in Italian: non ho parole, in other words, I have no words.

No peace, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song

11 thoughts on “Georgian wine on my mind (or Back in the USSR)

  1. J:

    Can Bush and Cheney be goaded by an emboldened Putin into wreaking further havoc with the United States and its legacy?

    Highly likely. Wine lovers should be – en masse – getting involved in the International wine scene by promoting America’s shame at the current administartion.

    Impeach them:

    Imagine how well a botlle of 1971 Clos Ste Hune would go down while watching opening statements given in the Senate … Imagine how Georgia’s vinous legacy may be destroyed by the acts of politicians who couldn’t care less about man’s second oldest passion.

  2. J,
    Unbelieveable. I’m sure your Russian friends aren’ that surprised though. We shouldn’t be either. George is mountain biking during this all and remember what he was doing during Katrina?
    I’ve never tried a Georgian wine. I think this will be the week. Suggestions are welcome.

  3. Could any of you find Georgia on a map before this week? Aware of what was going on there for the past 5yrs or so? Your brilliant preventive solutions that were discussed? Funny, no harsh words for the belligerent Russians who are actually the ones responsible? Brilliant.

    If Obama wants to exercise & shoot hoops on a day when Russia inevitably cuts off gas supplies to the Ukraine or launches another invasion . . . the problem is what?

    I don’t care if you link to Sean Hannity or the equally partisan airhead Maureen Dowd. Why the heck do people taint something enjoyable & pure like food / wine with political commentary?

  4. Thanks to everyone for the insightful comments. I’m not sure that my blog is the place for political commentary but I felt compelled to write something about Georgia. The situation is complicated and the Times published an editorial by Gorbachev today where he says the coverage of the conflict has not been “fair and balanced” and he’s probably right. Thomas Friedman’s editorial was also interesting.

  5. Paul D:

    I think you missed the point. Can you imagine watching criminals tried for their crimes by the Senate with a 1971 Clos Ste Hune? Add some Roast Pheasant and Choucroute and you might just declare yourself in heaven.

    Where the history of wine is the history of civilization, doesn’t it make perfect sense to combine politics with wine? Isn’t this apropos for a country (titularly sovereign) that not only may have given us the word wine, but also may be the seat of wine production several millenia ago (Hugh Johnson: The Story of Wine).

    If your enjoyment (bloviating about the merits of berry versus cherry) is tainted, perhaps that only underscores the reasons for your apparent political persuasion. Facts and history (whether the history of the past eight years, or that of the past seven thousand) take a back seat to being able to afford and blatter about the world’s finest and most expensive wines.

    No matter, apparently, that the likely upshot of this administration’s conduct will be that the rapidly growing number of Indian, Chinese and Russian Billionaires (while the equivalent number in America diminishes) will enjoy their Coca Cola/Chateau Latour blend while we fight harder and harder to produce fine wine in New Mexico as a “suitable” alternative.

    Jeremy – thanks for the post. Keep it up. Partisan rancour will inevitably be invited (my suggestion is to ignore it). Intelligent discussion was your aim. Perhaps we can foster that.

    Paul D – would you prefer to drink Chateau Musar or Chateau Schrapnel?


  6. Funny – I have been thinking of Georgian wine lately as well.
    There is a new importer here in SF, Christopher Terrell (, who barely looks 21, has traveled extensively through the area and is exceptionally knowledgeable on all things Georgian.
    He is working with Teliani Valley winery – which produces an array of wines from: Rkatseteli, Mtsvane, Tsolikouri, Sapteravi, Aleksandrouli, Mujertuli – I’ve tried several other Georgian wines in the past and they all seemed… “eh, that’s interesting…(but not that good)” – his, are good. Especially the amphora aged Mtsvane and at a fraction of the cost of other amphora aged wines… Most of his wines are retailing for $16-$24

  7. Mark and Ceri, thanks for stopping by.

    Mark, I actually met the guy who makes Musar when I was in Aspen. He invited me out to Beirut. Would be fascinating to visit him… Thanks for the interesting perspective about wine and politics. I was inspired to write that post by your blog…

    Ceri, I entirely forgot that Gravner sources his amphorae from Georgia. I’d love to taste through the wines you mention… thanks for the insightful comment….

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