Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vardzia Adventure Race

So it's not exactly wine, but those interested in running, biking and rafting, or just in seeing some of Georgia's rugged landscape, might find this race a lot of fun.

A NOTE FROM THE BLOGGER: Yes, I realize postings have become woefully infrequent. Mostly I blame the PhD program I entered in August. However, this blog has not been totally forgotten and I hope to have some sporadic postings this summer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Georgian Recipes Online

Today I discovered a wonderful blog of Georgian recipes, aptly titled Delicious Georgian Cuisine. I only regret that the blog had a rather short life and is no longer posting recipes. However, there are 48 on the website, and I'm looking forward to trying some. They run the gamut from soups and breads to meats and salads.

You'll notice from many of the pictures that Georgian cuisine, not surprisingly, pairs very well with wine.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Teliani Valley Tsinandali

The first two-story winery in recent Georgian history was built in Kakheti's Teliani valley in 1886; today, Teliani Valley PLC is heir to that tradition.

Teliani Valley describes their 2004 Tsinandali as a "white dry wine." Though not sweet, the wine lacks the crispness that most people associate with a dry white. To some palates this is a deficiency, but this simplicity of taste can also be seen as the wine's great virtue. When drinking this Tsinandali you are, quite simply, tasting grapes - 80% Rkatsiteli and 20% Mtsvane, harvested in late October - in a very balanced and smooth wine, with a gentle finish.

The makers suggest pairing this wine with white meats, vegetables or mushrooms, the last of which would work particularly well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

David the Builder Defeats Turks, Ushers in Golden Age

Since the 1080s the Kingdom of Georgia had been a tributary of the empire of the Seljuq Turks. In this dark time, known as the Great Turkish Onslaught (didi turkoba), young King David IV (left and below) decided he had had enough. He determined to bring order to the lawless land, reign in the unsubmissive feudal lords, centralize the state administration and build an army which could drive the Turks from Georgia and indeed the whole Caucasus.

While the Turks were dealing with the First Crusade, King David gathered his forces, consisting not only of ethnic Georgians but also Kipchak and Alan nomads and "Franks" from Western Europe. Between 1089 and 1100, King David organized cadres of loyal troops to restore order and destroy isolated enemy outposts. He resettled devastated regions, revived the major cities, ceased paying the annual tribute to the Seljuqs and stopped their seasonal migration into Georgia. (At the same time he rejected the Byzantine title of panhypersebastos, roughly translated "prince," indicating his refusal to be the vassal of any nation.)

In 1101 King David pushed further, capturing the fortress of Zedazeni, a strategic point for control of Kakheti and Hereti. David began to penetrate deeply into Seljuq territory, as far as the Araxes Basin and the Caspian littoral, disrupting Turkish trade throughout the region. In June of 1121 he began laying siege to Tbilisi, an ancient Georgian city which had been under foreign rule for centuries.

Sultan Mahmud II of the Seljuqs did not look kindly upon King David's attempts to liberate his country and the sultan launched a major counteroffensive, lead by his brother and several leading officials of the empire. Islamic, Georgian, Armenian and Western European sources vary in their accounts, but all agree that the Seljuq army numbered somewhere between 200,000 and 600,000. King David’s had a mere 40,000 Georgians, 15,000 Kipchaks, 500 Alans and 100 Western "Franks." For every one man in his camp there was somewhere between three and ten in the enemy camp.

On August 12, 1121, an advanced party of 200 of David's men surprised the Turks and the king then fell with the bulk of his forces upon the flanks of the sultan's army. In a three hour battle at Didgori, the Seljuq forces were defeated, leaving behind large amounts of booty as they fled.

The victory at the Battle of Didgori broke the enemy's back and the next year King David captured the city of Tbilisi. According to one Georgian chronicler, it became "forever an arsenal and capital for his sons." Though David at first dealt harshly with the Muslims of Tbilisi, the Arab historian al-'Ayni records that he eventually relented and "respected the feelings of the Muslims more than Muslim rulers had done."

When he later went on to liberate Armenian lands from the Turks as well, he was given the title "Sword of the Messiah." In addition to his political and military skills, King David was also a writer, penning the Galobani sinanulisani ("Hymns of Repentance"), free-verse poetry.

King David died on January 24, 1125, and was buried at the Gelati Monastery (whose ceiling is pictured above). As he requested, he was buried under the stones of the gatehouse, so anyone coming to visit would first step on his tomb, an act of great humility from such an accomplished man.

A friend of the church and a promoter of Christian culture, David the Builder was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The modern flag of Georgia began as the standard of King David and the Order of David the Builder is one of the most prestigious decorations awarded by Georgia. President Mikheil Saakashvili took his oath of office at the tomb of King David.

Memorial at Didgori

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Akhasheni Red Wine

Like many of Georgia's finest wines, Akhasheni red wine comes from the Kakheti region (whose David Gareja monastery is pictured above). This wine is made from Saperavi grapes from the Akhasheni vineyards of the Gurdzhaani district.

The wine is naturally semi-sweet and has a dark pomegranate color and a velvety taste with undertones of chocolate. It has 10.5-12.0% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and 5-7% titrated acidity. Akhasheni red wine has been manufactured since 1958.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Marjory Wardrop: A Friend of Georgia

Born in London on November 26, 1869, Marjory Scott Wardrop was a life-long friend of Georgia, its people and its literature.

She began her study of Georgian with nothing more than an alphabet and a Gospel. By the age of twenty she had chosen to devote herself to the study of Georgian. She would eventually master a total of seven languages, the others being French, German, Italian, Russian and Romanian. She not only learned to speak them, but studied the literature of each as well. He travels took her across Europe, to North Africa and to Haiti; she spent three years living in Romania and a decade in various parts of the Russian empire.

Her command of the Georgian language was so excellent that when she wrote to Ilia Chavchavadze (pictured right) requesting permission to translate The Hermit, a copy of her letter was published in his newspaper, Iveria, as a model of style. When she arrived in Transcaucasia in December, 1894, she was received with great enthusiasm. On this and subsequent travels she met a wide variety of Georgians from every class and formed a number of lasting friendships which resulted in a regular and extensive correspondence in Georgian. “There is hardly a household in the Western Caucasus,” one commentator writes, “where her name is unknown. Others, have studied the language, literature, and history, of Georgia; she in addition felt an affection for the nation, kept herself informed of all that concerned its welfare, and was sometimes able unobtrusively to do good work for it.”

Though fragile and weak of body, Wardrop was known for her “subtle humor, strength of mind and warmth of heart.” On three successive occasions – in Port-au-Prince (1902), in St. Petersburg (1905), and in Bucharest (1907) – she found herself in the midst of war, but faced violence and pestilence with calm resolve, always sharing in the perils of those around her.

She translated and published Georgian Folk Tales (London, 1894 - cover piece left), The Hermit by Ilia Chavchavadze (London, 1895), The Life of St. Nino (Oxford, 1900) and The Knight in the Panther's Skin by Shota Rustaveli (London, 1912).

She died at Bucharest on December 7, 1909 and was buried at Sevenoaks. Her brother, the British diplomat and scholar of Georgia, Sir Oliver Wardrop, created the Marjory Wardrop Fund at Oxford University “for the encouragement of the study of the language, literature, and history of Georgia, in Transcaucasia.” Her books and manuscripts now reside in Oxford’s Bodleian Library.