Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Barakoni Red Wine

Barakoni red wine is grown on the steep slopes of the Rioni gorge in the mountainous western region of Racha (modern-day Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti). This wine, made from Alexandreuli and Mudzhuretuli grapes (the same grapes from which Khvanchkara is made), is naturally semi-dry. Barakoni is known for its light-ruby color, fragrance of violets, natural pleasant sweetness and a tender harmonious taste. After breathing for a bit, Barakoni contains 10-12% alcohol, 1.5-2.5% sugar and has 5-7% titrated acidity.

Produced since 1981, Barakoni wine is named after the Georgian Orthodox Barakoni Church of the Mother of God (Georgian: ბარაკონის ღვთისმშობლის ტაძარი), commonly known as Barakoni (ბარაკონი). It is an important surviving example of the medieval tradition of Georgian architecture.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Edition of Georgian National Epic Published

A new edition of the Wardrop translation of the Georgian national epic, The Man in the Panther's Skin, by Shota Rustaveli (pictured left in a 1937 painting by Sergo Kobuladze) was released late last year in paperback form by Forgotten Books.

A brief passage from the Preface explains some of the appeal of the text:

The history of the poem makes it worthy of perusal, for it has been in a unique manner the book of a nation for seven hundred years; down to our own days the young people learned it by heart; every woman was expected to know every word of it, and on her marriage to carry a copy of it to her new home. Such veneration shown for so long a period proves that the story of the Panther-clad Knight presents an image of the Georgian outlook on life, and justifies the presumption that merits tested by the experience of a quarter of a million days, most of them troublous, may be apparent to other races, that such a book may be of value to mankind, and chiefly to those peoples which, like the Georgian, came under the influence of Greek and Christian ideals.

Shota Rustaveli presents his poem to Queen Tamar, Mihály Zichy, 1880s

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Uplistsikhe: Ancient Center of Georgian Culture

The name 'Uplistsikhe' (უფლისციხე) literally means 'the lord's fortress'; this ancient city on the Mtkvari River - complete with streets, churches, palaces, concert halls and living quarters - was carved out of the rock, beginning in the 5th century BC. Over the centuries, a unique combination of various architectural styles from Anatolia and Iran would emerge, with pagan and Christian structures eventually standing side by side.

Located just 10km east of modern-day Gori, Uplistsikhe is one of the oldest urban centers in Georgia and grew to be a key religious, political and cultural center in the Hellenistic period, in part due to its strategic location in the heartland of the Kingdom of Kartli (known as Iberia to the ancient writers).

With the establishment of Christianity in Georgia in 337, the city's importance declined, with Mtskheta and later Tbilisi emerging as the centers of Christian culture. However, due to its ancient greatness, medieval Georgian writers ascribed its foundation to the mythical Uplos, son of Mtskhetos, and grandson of Kartlos.

The city rose to prominence again in the 9th century and became a stronghold during the Muslim conquests, until Genghis Khan destroyed the city in 1240. By the 14th century it was deserted.

Several of the most vulnerable parts of the ruins were completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1920. Stability remains a key concern, prompting the Fund of Cultural Heritage of Georgia (a joint project of the World Bank and Government of Georgia) to launch a conservation program in 2000. Of the original 700 caves, only about 150 remain, though they are well known for their breathtaking beauty.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Georgian Dance Sensation Is Back

On April 29th the famed Erisioni dance company will premier its latest show, Samaia, in Bucharest. (As of this writing, tickets were still avaliable.) The performance takes its name from a traditional dance associated with Queen Tamar of Georgia, who is celebrated in the Georgian epic poem, The Knight in the Panther's Skin.

If this latest show from producer Pascal Jourdan is anything like the last two, it will be well worth seeing. In addition, award-winning singer Marika Tkhelidze (pictured) will be performing with the troupe.

The tour will also include a stop at the Festival de Cornouaille, where traditional Georgian and Celtic dance will collide on July 21st.

And if you need just a little more Erisioni in your life, check out this excellent video, which includes performance clips and interviews with a variety of people involved in the last tour.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lelo Fortified Wine

Made from Tsitska and Tsolikauri grapes, grown in the Imereti region, Lelo has a golden color, a fruity aroma and a well-balanced taste. (Incidentally, these are the same grapes used to make Kolkheti wine.)

Similar in many ways to the port wines better known in the West, Lelo is a fortified wine, meaning that additional alcohol has been added. Originally this was done to presever the wine, though now it has become a matter of taste. Due to the added sweetness, such wines are sometimes referred to as "dessert wines."

The alcohol content is 19%, sugar content 5 %, and an acidity of 6 g/l.