Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Jason Voyage

The ancient Greeks told the story of a man named Jason sailing on the ship Argo with a band of friends (the Argonauts), eventually arriving in the land of Colchis, where he seized the Golden Fleece and ran off with the king's daughter, Medea.
For years many scholars claimed the journey could not be made in the boats of Jason's time.

So Tim Severin (pictured) set out to prove them wrong. Constructing a boat along the lines of an early Greek ship, he and a group of men recreated the legendary voyage of Jason, sailing from Greece to modern Georgia, at that time a part of the Soviet Union. Upon his arrival Severin was greeted by Georgian hospitality and treated to the supra. He went on to write a book about his adventures, The Jason Voyage.

Born in India in 1940, Severin began his life of exploration while still studying geography and history at Oxford. He has gone on to recreate a number of legendary journeys in order to determine how much of the legends are based on history. His books have won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, The Book Of The Sea Award, a Christopher Prize and the literary medal of the Academie de la Marine. He is a regular contributor to the National Geographic Magazine. Tim Severin also holds the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Treasures of Georgia

If you've not already fallen in love with the beauty that is Georgia, this series of films, titled Treasures of Georgia, will win you over.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Usakhelauri Red Wine

The Usakhelauri grape, from which Usakhelauri red wine is made, is grown on the mountain slopes of the Lechkhumi district in western Georgia, mainly near the villages of Okhureshi, Aubi and Isunderi. These grapes are quite scarce and only a limited amount of land is available, making them highly prized, indeed the premier wine grape of Georgia. The very name "Usakhelauri" means "nameless" in Georgian, on account of its rarity

Usakhelauri wine, produced since 1943, is known for its gentle and subtle qualities. The flavor is a harmoniously sweet one with a hint of strawberry. It is noted for a pleasant velvety taste, a delicate bouquet and matchless piquancy.

Usakhelauri contains 10.5 - 12.0% alcohol, 3 - 5% sugar and has 5 - 7 % titrated acidity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Guria: From the Mountains to the Sea

Guria (გურია) is a region in western Georgia with landscapes running from the Meskheti Mountains at 2800 meters (9128 feet) all the way down to the beaches of the Black Sea. Its subtropical climate makes it home to tea, citrus, tobacco, hazelnut and silk production.

Nearly half of Guria is covered in forests, many of which are home to health resorts and or springs used to produce the widely-exported Nabeghlavi mineral water (which was recently banned from Russia, along with Georgian wine, as an act of political intimidation).

Guria's flora is exceedingly rich and distinctive, encompassing bogs and sub-alpine forests and open fields. Cultural sites include the Likhauri church (15th century), the Shemokmedi monastery complex (16-18th centuries; pictured), the Gurieli palace (18th century), the Djumati monastery (16th century), the Askana fortress and church complex (16th century) and Petra (I millennium, BC, later called Justinianopolis or today Tsikhisdziri).

The region was governed by local rulers until the creation of the unified Kingdom of Georgia in the 10th century. When the Kingdom disintegrated in 1466, Guria became an independent principality. Throughout the eighteenth century, Gurian princes were involved in anti-Ottoman liberation wars, though eventually Lower Guria fell to the Ottomans. In 1810 Prince Mamia V Gurieli accepted Russian sovereignty though Russian resulted in an uprising in 1819 and 1820. A subsequent uprising in 1841 was brutally suppressed. The region (mkhare) of Guria re-emerged as part of an independent Georgia in 1995.

Famous Georgians include historian and archaeologist Ekvtime Takaishvili, journalist and politician Noe Zhordania and historian and philologist Pavle Ingorokva.

There is some debate about where the name “Guria” comes from. Some argue it is named after the Gurieli noble family, which governed western Georgia as vassals of the crown, beginning in the 13th century. Others contend that when Georgia’s boundaries stretched from Nikopsia to Daruband, Guria was in the center of Georgia, taking its name from the Megrelian word for heart: “guri.”

Medallion from an icon frame, Djumati Monestary, c. 1100

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mtsvane Grapes

Mtsvane grapes are grown in several areas of Kakheti, including Signagi (pictured), and Kvareli.

These grapes are used in a variety of Georgian white wines. The vines, though susceptible to drought, are resistant to frost and are characterized by medium-size yellow-green grapes with bronze spots; they have a thin skin and juicy pulp. (The name Mtsvane in Georgian means "new, young, green.") The leaves have five lobes and are more rounded than many.

Mtsvane grapes can be used to produce Manavi or Mtsvane dry table wine. These grapes are often blended with Rkatsiteli to make Tsinandali, Vazisubani or Gurdzhaani wine, since to it adds a fruity, aromatic balance. In addition, Mtsvane grapes are blended with Rkatsiteli and Khikhvi to make high quality Rkatsiteli Khornabudjuli wine or the fortified Anaga.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tavisupleba: The Georgian National Anthem

Tavisupleba (თავისუფლება) is the national anthem of Georgia. The song, along with the new flag and coat of arms, were ushered in in 2004, following the bloodless Rose Revolution.

The song’s title means “freedom.” The lyrics were written by Davit Maghradze and the music adopted by Ioseb Kechakmadze from two Georgian operas, Abesalom da Eteri (“Abesalom and Eteri”) and Daisi (“Nightfall”), by the Georgian composer Zakaria Paliashvili (1871-1933), the father of Georgian classical music.

A variety of Georgian muscians performing Tavisupleba together, with film from the Rose Revolution

English Translation

My icon is my motherland,
And the whole world is its icon-stand.
Bright mounts and valleys
Are shared with God
Today our freedom
Sings to the glory of future,
The dawn star rises up
And shines out between two seas.
Praise be to liberty, Praise be to liberty!


ჩემი ხატია სამშობლო,
სახატე მთელი ქვეყანა,
განათებული მთა-ბარი,
წილნაყარია ღმერთთანა.
თავისუფლება დღეს ჩვენი
მომავალს უმღერს დიდებას,
ცისკრის ვარსკვლავი ამოდის
და ორ ზღვას შუა ბრწყინდება,
დიდება თავისუფლებას,
თავისუფლებას დიდება.

Georgian Transliteration

Chemi khatia samshoblo,
Sakhate mteli kveqana,
Ganatebuli mta-bari
Tsilnaqaria Ghmerttana.
Tavisupleba dghes chveni
Momavals umghers didebas,
Tsiskris varskvlavi amodis
Da or zghvas shua brtsqindeba.
Dideba tavisuplebas,Tavisuplebas dideba!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Georgia's Own Katie Melua

Ketevan “Katie” Melua (ქეთევან "ქეთი" მელუა) has been compared to such female musical sensations as Joss Stone and Norah Jones, though her career has really only begun. Her blend of jazz and blues styles, filtered through a folk acoustic guitar, have been making waves around the world.

Born in Kutaisi, Georgia in 1984, Katie Melua grew up in Tbilisi, where her grandparents lived, and later moved with her family to the seaside town of Batumi, Ajaria. The family left Georgia when Katie was 8 and moved to Belfast where her father worked as a heart surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Katie went to Catholic schools in Northern Ireland while her younger brother went to a Protestant school. The family moved to Redhill, England in 1998. As a result of her diverse upbringing, Katie speaks three languages: Georgian, Russian and English.

Melua did not always want to be a singer or songwriter; when she was thirteen she aspired to be a politician or a historian. “I honestly thought I'd be able to bring peace to the world,” she once explained, “if I ruled it!” When she was fifteen Melua entered a TV talent competition and won, despite only having entered for fun.

Katie Melua joined the BRIT School for Performing Arts where she undertook a BTEC and Music A-level. Here she discovered a variety of musical styles of music including Queen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Irish folk music and Indian music. On hearing an Eva Cassidy song she was deeply impressed and, upon discovering that Eva was no longer alive, wrote the song ‘Faraway Voice’ as a tribute. In July, 2003, she graduated with distinction.

Composer/producer Mike Batt visited the BRITs looking for musicians to form a jazz band; on hearing Melua perform ‘Faraway Voice’ he realized he had found something special. “Artists like Katie don’t come along very often; she is a true original.” Katie signed to Batt’s record label Dramatico. In 2003 she met Queen Elizabeth, who told her, “I have heard your record on the radio; it is very nice.”

In November, 2003 she released her debut album, ‘Call Off the Search,’ which hit number 1 in January 2004, knocking Dido out of the top spot and staying there for three weeks. (Temporarily deposed by Norah Jones, Melua returned to the top spot, holding it for another three weeks.)

Katie Melua joined the line up of Band Aid 20 for the new version of the single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas.’ She also works as an ambassador for Save The Children and was asked by Sharon Osbourne to join the recording of Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears In Heaven,’ a fundraising single for the Tsunami appeal.

On 10 August, 2005, she became a British citizen, along with her family. After the ceremony she explained, “As a family, we have been very fortunate to find a happy lifestyle in this country and we feel we belong.” However, “we still consider ourselves to be Georgian, because that is where our roots are, and I return to Georgia every year to see my uncles and grandparents.”

In 2005 she released a second album, "Piece by Piece." She enjoys roller coasters, paragliding, hang gliding and skydiving.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ojaleshi Red Wine

Ojaleshi red wine (variously spelled “Oljaleshi,” “Odjaleshi” or “Odzhaleshi”) is made from grapes of the same name, which are grown on the mountains overlooking the Tskhenis-Tskali River, in particular near the village of Orbeli in the Samegrelo district of western Georgia (pictured), not far from such historic sites as Nokalakevi.

Ojaleshi has a dark ruby color, a spicy aroma and a rich taste with fruity flavor flavors. It contains 10-12% alcohol, 3-5% sugar and has a titrated acidity of 5-6%.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Word from the Blogger

As some of you know, this blog began as a public diplomacy project for a class at the Institute of World Politics. The assignment is now over and I think I can say with confidence that the project has been a success.

Thanks go out to all of our readers around the world who visited from the following places: Europe (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom), the Americas (Canada, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, United States), Asia (India, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey), Africa (Morocco) and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand).

Please continue to spread the word about From the Cradle of Wine, the Republic of Georgia and the fine wines that come out of this region. Though the assignment is over this blog will continue, if perhaps with slightly less frequent posts.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Grape Harvest Comes to Georgia

In late September and early October grape harvest comes to Georgia. The day’s labor begins early and is strenuous, but punctuated with feasting and celebration, especially late into the evening. (This can make for a short night of sleep before work resumes the next morning, but no one seems to mind.)

In the major wine region of Kakheti, three quarters of households derive some portion of their income from wine production. Houses are very proud of their particular vintages and small vineyard owners have been known to sleep in their vineyards at night to guard their precious crops.

Not all the grapes are used to make wine, however. Some are left in bunches on the ground by the harvesters, who pick them up on their last pass-through, to be dried and made into raisins.

In the autumn visitors to Kakheti can find themselves working alongside the harvest crews or sampling bottles of the region’s past accomplishments. Regardless, guests are caught up in the hospitality and celebration that characterize the harvest time.

There are a number of autumn festivals, directly or indirectly celebrating the harvest, the rtveli. The holidays of Alaverdoba (28 September) and Mtskhetoba/Svetichovloba (14 October) are also celebrated this time of year. Harvest feasting involves lavish amounts of famed Georgian food and drink, with serving goats a common tradition.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tsinandali White Wine

Tsinandali white wine is made from a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes (pictured) and comes from the Telavi and Kvareli area of Kakheti. It is fermented at cool temperatures and matured for two to three years to bring out the complexity. Tsinandali can be aged for a further five, adopting some nutty bottle-aged characters in the process. However it is recommended that the wine be consumed within the first two years.

Tsinandali has a pale golden color and a light body. The flavor, though light, is not dull, with tones of apple. The finish is moderate in length.

Because of the high acidity, Tsinandali nicely complements cheeses and appetizers, a great starter for a meal. It also goes well with fish, cream sauces and fruits. Unlike many white wines, Tsinandali is best served at cellar temperature, around 14ºC (58ºF). The refreshing taste and cool temperature work very well in warm weather.

The view from Telani, Georgia, home of Tsinandali

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tbilisi Builds New Cathedral

The Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral is commonly known, even in the West, as "Sameba" from the Georgian სამება,"Trinity." It is the seat of the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In May of 1989 the Patriarch, in conjunction with the civil authorities in Tbilisi, announced an international contest to build a new cathedral, to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ and the 1,500th anniversary of the autonomy (technically called "autocephaly") of the Georgian church. In a two-stage selection process the design of Archil Mindiashvili was selected from among hundreds. On November 23 (St. George's Day), 1995, the cornerstone was laid and exactly nine years later the church was consecrated by Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II and representatives of fellow Orthodox churches from around the world. Also in attendance were political leaders and religious figures from non-Orthodox communities.

The new cathedral is a synthesis of traditional Georgian architectural styles from a variety of periods in Georgian history. The church is cruciform in layout with nine chapels, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, Saint Nino, Saint George, Saint Nicholas, the Twelve Apostles, each of the three Archangels and All Saints. The interior paintings are currently being done by a team of artists under the direction of Amiram Goglidze.

Sameba Cathedral is not only the primary building of the Georgian Orthodox Church, but also the largest church in the south Caucuses and among the largest Orthodox churches in the world. The complex also includes a freely-standing bell-tower, the Patriarch's residence, a monastery, a seminary, theological academy and several workshops.