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DECEMBER 2022/ THE SUPRA


Niko Pirosmani, Banquet of Five Princes, 1906


INTRO

The sharing of food with particular preparation, at particular times and places, with particular people is at the heart of what makes us human.  Consider the cow grazing throughout the day, while humans (and primates) use meals to delineate time, set spatial boundaries by eating somewhere separate from other activities, and see the people whom the meal is shared with to be significant.  This has been a part of human history since the beginning.  Archeologists in southern England uncovered evidence of a feast consisting of over 800 lbs of horse meat dating back to 80,000 years ago.  This predates Neanderthals and suggests that these might have been some of the first hominids to control fire and cook.  It is believed that the use of fire to cook turned feeding into food and caused early humans to therefore face each other while eating around the fire.  Things previously regarded as a threat such as eye contact and the showing of teeth, were then on their way to becoming “social”.
To take a large leap forward to 6,000 BCE when wine was first being intentionally made by early Georgians, we also stumble upon a deep history of feasting.  Even one of their popular creation myths centers around a feast that was so delicious and consuming that Georgians missed the deadline when God was dividing up the earth into countries.  This is the root of our title Supra, the Georgian word for their traditional feast.  There is a foundation of merriment, unique cuisine, wine history, and gratitude in a Georgian feast that has inspired us to focus this month’s Club Caravan completely on Georgian wine and food.  As our own culture enters a season of feasting, we ask the Georgians to share some of their wisdom in this ancient human tradition so that our own tables and hearts may become fuller.

Niko Pirosmani, Hen with Her Chicks, 1918

ABOUT THE PRODUCER 

Tchotiashvili Vineyards
Republic of Georgia, Kahketi
Kahka Tchotiashvili, Winemaker
The Tchotiashvili family has been making wine in the Kakheti Region of Georgia since the beginning of the 18th century. They are located in the Alazani Valley on the Lopota River. Heading the family winemaking operation are two brothers, Kakha and Ucha Tchotiashvili. Crafting everything by hand, they believe winemaking is an art as well as a big responsibility. They hold the skills that have been passed down from previous generations and they owe it to future generations to continue to pass on this tradition.
Tchotiashvili Vineyeards uses one of the longest held practices in Georgian winemaking, the qvevri. These are large, conical, clay vessels used for maceration, fermentation, storage and aging of wines. Qvevri have been used for millennia and the traditional Georgian wine making process has become an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity according to UNESCO.
When working with qvevri, a producer will first foot-stomp the grapes in large wooden troughs, letting the juice run into the qvevri. Then the grapes, pips, stems & all will be put into the qvevri with the juice and left. Sealed with a lid and buried in the ground, the wine will ferment in the qvevri for several weeks and up to 6 months. The resulting wines are usually termed amber and red (white grapes lead to amber wines, and red to red). Because of the traditional Georgian winemaking process in qvevri, the final product can often age up to 30 years or more.

 


Niko Pirosmani, Healer on Donkey, 1900

 

WINE 1

Tchotiashvili, Rkatsiteli Reserve

Coming from vines over 50 years old, a golden amber in the glass. This wine sees time in qvevriand finished in old oak in the cellar. Expressive notes of apricot and candied fruits along withhoney and hazelnut. A quite savory expression of Rkatsiteli, with delicate tannins and great acidity, this bottle shows what a true master winemaker can accomplish. Perfect pairing with white meat, or zaatar flavored dishes.
  • Aged in Qvevri
  • 7 months maceration on grape skins, pips, stems
  • No filtration
  • Minimal sulfites at bottling
  • Vines planted in 1975
  • Inner Kahketi Region, left bank of the Alazani River
  • 450m ASL at the bottom of the Caucasus Mountains
  • Dry Farmed (no irrigation)

The Grape: Rkatsiteli 

This is one of Georgia’s oldest grape  varieties, having been cultivated for several millennia. Rkatsiteli does very well in both hot summers and sub-zero winters. It is incredibly versatile with its perfect balance of sugar and acids, making great table wine, sparkling, sweet and fortified wines, as well as brandy. It is the dominant variety of the Kakheti region, which is an inland region equidistant between the Black and Caspian seas.


RECIPES

ASPARAGUS SOUP
Satatsuri
 
SERVES 4 TO 6
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut
into 1-inch pieces
5 cups boiling water
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, well beaten
¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs
(parsley, cilantro, dill)
 
Place the asparagus pieces in a saucepan
and pour the boiling water over them.
Simmer, covered, until the asparagus is
fork-tender, about 5 to 8 minutes, depending
on the thickness of the stalks.
Meanwhile, sauté the chopped onions in the
butter. When the asparagus is done, stir in
the onions, salt, and pepper to taste.
Stir a small amount of the hot broth into the
beaten eggs, then carefully whisk the eggs
into the soup, mixing well (the eggs are
supposed to curdle slightly). Stir in the
chopped herbs and simmer for a few
minutes more.
 
*
CHICKEN WITH HERBS
Chakhokhbili
 
SERVES 6 TO 8
2 tablespoons butter
One 3-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
4 medium onions, chopped
8 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded,
and coarsely chopped (or one 28-ounce
can plum tomatoes, drained and
coarsely chopped)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Generous ½ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs
(parsley, cilantro, tarragon, basil, dill)
⅛ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
Melt the butter in a large skillet and brown
the chicken pieces on all sides. Stir in the
chopped onions and cook for 10 minutes,
continuing to stir occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and cook, covered, for
30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
Stir in the garlic, herbs, pepper fakes, and
salt and pepper to taste. Cook, covered,
5 minutes longer.
Let stand 5 minutes, covered, before serving.

Niko Pirosmani, Actress Margarita, 1909

Wine 2

Tchotiashvili, Saperavi
This Saperavi is earthy, rich, and deep. You’ll find soft flavors with a noticeable spice. The grippy tannins are washed away by stewed red and black fruit flavors. This wine was aged in oak for a short time after its original time in the qvevri. Saperavi pairs wonderfully with a myriad of foods: from meaty stews and roasts to more complex umami flavored dishes.
  • Aged in Qvevri
  • 3.5 months maceration on grape skins, pips, stems
  • No Filtration
  • Minimal sulfites added at bottling
  • Vines planted in 1990
  • 480m ASL at the bottom of the Caucasus Mountains
  • Dry Farmed (no irrigation)

The Grape: Saperavi

Another ancient variety performing very well in the Kakheti Region, Saperavi loves a cooler climate. It produces wines with wonderful deep colors and pronounced acidity. This variety can grow in abundance without lacking quality. Because of this, Saperavi has been used to produce friendly table wines, as well as excellent barrel-aged, full-bodied and complex expressions.


RECIPES

HEARTY LAMB SOUP
Bozbashi
 
SERVES 4 TO 6
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1½ pounds lean lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1½ cups peeled, seeded, and
chopped tomatoes
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium red pepper, seeded and chopped
12 large fingers okra, trimmed and
coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped dried apricots
1½ teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts water
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
 
In a large stockpot, heat the butter. Add the
onions and sauté until soft and golden, 10 to
Is minutes. Add the lamb and cook over
medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the
meat browns. Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes,
red pepper, okra, apricots, salt, and pepper
to taste. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes,
stirring occasionally, until the vegetables
begin to sweat. Add the water. Bring to a
boil, then reduce the heat and simmer,
covered, for 1½ hours. Stir in the parsley
and serve. Bozbashi reheats well.
*
BRAISED PHEASANT
Moshushuli Khokhobi
 
SERVES 4
¼ cup hazelnuts
¼ cup boiling water
1 heaping teaspoon black tea leaves
2 pheasants, cleaned and dressed, about
2½ pounds each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tangerine, peeled and separated into
segments
2 tablespoons sweet red wine
2 tablespoons unsweetened grape juice
Tangerine segments, toasted hazelnuts, and
red and white grapes for garnish
 
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Toast the hazelnuts for I0 minutes until
lightly browned, then rub off their skins
between the edges of a tea towel. Grind
them in a food processor.
Pour the boiling water over the tea leaves
and let steep for 15 minutes.
Rinse the pheasants and pat them dry. Rub
inside and out with salt and pepper to taste,
then rub with the butter. Grease an
ovenproof casserole just large enough to
hold the pheasants and place them in it
breast side up. Surround with the tangerine
segments.




Niko Pirosmani, Black Bear, 1910

 

HOW TO BE A TAMADA AND HOST A SUPRA

First step is to gather a group of friends together for a supra (session of feasting, drinking and celebration). The role of the tamada is that of a guide, one who will lead the group into a good time and cause the supra to be a joyous experience.  This is chiefly done through the act of toasting.  Through toasting, the tamada creates a bond between all who have gathered.  Supras are all about abundance and generosity.  Many courses are brought out at random, plates of food piled on top of each other.  The dishes themselves are often densely packed with herbs.  And the tamada will be delivering many toasts like the many plates touching on aspects of the occasion and the people present.
The tamada is chosen by the group. At some point after everyone has arrived, one can propose someone to be the tamada for the gathering. If the person suggested has no objections, then a toast is given to the tamada, and the gathering can officially begin with said person now as the tamada. 
There are several qualities the tamada should possess in order for the supra to be successful. First and foremost is having the sensitivity to read the dynamic of the guests gathered, as well as each individual, in order to ensure successful participation by everybody. The tamada needs to also encourage the participation of everyone with regards to drinking and toasting. The tamada must have a way with words that is not only articulate but also able to capture the elusive poetic qualities of the human heart. They must be able to put things into words that are otherwise abstract or difficult to understand. The toasts given could last for several minutes at a time, and there could be 20 or more of these toasts given throughout an evening. Historically, the tamada has been a male figure. We don’t uphold this tradition, believing anybody holds the potential to be a tamada. Everyone present at the supra should be toasted at some point. It is important that all participants feel an equal part of the event and that everybody’s strong qualities are highlighted through the tamada’s toast.
Also, traditionally, after each toast, everyone clears their glass of wine. Here is an interesting point to discuss. Inebriation is not the goal of the supra, and is frowned upon. The balance between celebration and wine consumption is guided by the tamada so that everyone retains a level of sobriety while also increasing the joviality of the supra.
The Georgians look at guests as a gift from God.  To be together around a table with friends, family, strangers, lovers is a conjunction of many paths that can’t always be explained how they crossed.  To have history and/ or  mystery with those you are sharing a feast with can offer a lot to talk about.  And the tamada knows what to say. Gaumarjos!

_______________________________________

Our aim is to give a glimpse into the many roles wine has played throughout history.  All subjects mentioned deserve more attention and research and we encourage you to keep exploring.  We are only here to pop the cork.

Many Thanks, Caravan Wine Shop

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