Monday, October 28, 2019

Wine-pairing Lunch at Pheasant's Tears, Arguably Georgia's Most Famous Winery - Georgia Wine Tour 2019

Pictures: Wine-pairing Lunch at Pheasant's Tears in Sghnaghi - Georgia Wine Tour 2019

The Guardian - From Georgia to Lebanon: exploring the best wines of the ancient world (Chad Parkhill, Fri 27 Apr 2018): Much of the current interest in Georgian wines is owed to Pheasant’s Tears, the winery founded in 2007 by American John Wurdeman and Georgian Gela Patalishvili, which has acted as an ambassador for Georgia’s traditional wine styles.

We had a wine-pairing lunch at the Pheasant's Tears Restaurant in Sghnaghi. We tasted 4 Pheasant's Tears wines, all qvevri wines. Before lunch, we toured Sghnaghi.

The Pheasant's Tears vineyards and the marani (the qvevris) are a few miles away from Sghnaghi. Crazy Pomegranate is a restaurant located amongst the vines in the Pheasant’s Tears Winery, open by reservation only.

Annette and I spent a week in Georgia, the small country that used to be part of the Soviet Union, located between the Black See and the Caspian See. The area is considered to be the birthplace of wine. Research indicates that wine has been made in Georgia for 8000 years. There are over 500 indigenous grape varieties in Georgia. Traditionally, wine in Georgia has been made (fermented and aged) in amphoras burried in the ground..

This was a group-tour of the Collegium Vini, an association of wine lovers in the Frankfurt/ Germany area, of which we are members. The tour was organized by GEORGIENREISEN. Co-owner Tea Totogashvili was our guide. The focus of the tour was on culture and wine.

See here for an overview posting: Georgia Wine Tour 2019: Discovering the Birthplace of Wine

Wine in Georgia

Georgia is located in an area that is considered to be the birthplace of wine. Research indicates that wine has been made in Georgia for 8000 years. There are over 500 indigenous grape varieties in Georgia. Traditionally, wine in Georgia has been made (fermented and aged) in amphoras burried deep in the ground.

Georgia is a small, Christian country with a difficult history. In particular, it was part of the Russian Zsar's Empire. During that period the influence of French winemaking and French cuisine was important. More recently, Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. During the Soviet Union period Georgia was the chief provider of wine for the whole country.This was essentially low-cost mass wine shipped in tanks to all regions of the Soviet Union and bottled there. There was no commercial qvevri winemaking during the Soviet Union period. The commercial sector was dominated by huge stainless steel tanks to produce sweet-style wines.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union and various conflicts between Russia and Georgia, the Georgian wine sector has been adjusting to the new market conditions. The production of inexpensive, often sweet-style wines for Russia and other neighboring countries remains important.

At the same time, the amber wine revolution has discovered Georgia and Georgia has become an important player in the natural wine scene, including in New York, Berlin, London etc. But quevri wines account only for 3% of Georgia's wine exports. Still, they account for 100% of the buzz.

Tradionally, both red and white wine have been fermented and aged in qvevris, burried in the ground for temperature control purposes. Basically each family in Georgia has a quevri where they make there wine in this ancient method. Typically, quevri wines are no-sulfur wines with natural yeast only. Whole-bunch fermentation is the rule. 

While the buzz is about the hard-core qvevri winemaking where the grapes are fermented with their skins, pips and stems and aged for an extensive period in a qvevri, you also find winemakers that combine the traditional Georgian approach with modern approaches like aging in barrels or fermenting in qvevris but without skins, pips and stems. In fact, there is a whole range of qvevri winemaking. 

Interestingly, not once went a winemaker with us to the vineyard and we did not have one single-vineyard wine in Georgia. In general it seems that vineyard issues are on the backburner in Georgia.

Visit of Sghnaghi Being one of the smallest towns in Georgia, Sighnaghi is also one of the most charming ones, complete with breathtaking landscapes, cobblestone streets, and pastel-colored houses.

You can visit the Sighnaghi Museum, overlook the picturesque Alazani Valley, walk on the ancient defense wall of the city, or try some local wines at several wineries scattered across the area. And if you are traveling with your loved one, you can even get married at the civil ceremony office that’s open 24 hours a day.

Pictures: Sighnaghi

Pheasant’s Tears

Favorite Wineries in Georgia, the Birthplace of Viticulture, September 18, 2018, by Hideaway Report Editor - Pheasant’s Tears: No list of top Georgian wineries dares to exclude this curiously named venture (the name refers to a Georgian folk tale). Georgian winemaker Gela Patalishvili persuaded an American expat artist, John Wurdeman, to found this winery in 2007. It has become perhaps the most famous in the country, notable for its dedication to and promotion of natural wine (made in qvevri organically and with minimal intervention). Its homey restaurant in Sighnaghi is an ideal place to try its excellent wines together with superb local cuisine. Pheasant’s Tears is making boundary-pushing wines that constantly raise the bar for what is possible in Georgia. Their first harvest in 2009 included a few autochthonous grapes that had not been commercially bottled for hundreds of years. All of Pheasant’s Tears wines are fermented and matured in the qvevri. The winery is near the medieval hilltop town of Sighnaghi, in the Kakheti wine region.

John Wurdeman: Pheasant’s Tears was born out of a love of authentic tradition, and culture and endless creativity. It is more than a winery, it's about songs, cuisine, art, heritage, tangible and intangible. For wine is born out of a confluence of the spirit of a place, its geology, its history, and the emotions of the vitner himself. In the end, a dialogue between nature and man, a fine tension between respect for the past and creating a new experience for tomorrow. Traditions here are seen as the nourishing soul for improvisation and respectful evolution.

Pictures: Arriving at Pheasant’s Tears

Wine Enthusiast: Pheasant’s Tears Keeps Georgian Tradition Alive
By Ishay Govender-Ypma, Published on January 18, 2019

American artist John Wurdeman is recognized around the world for his paintings and his influential Georgian natural winery, Pheasant’s Tears. His story winds back to when he was 16 years old and became enamored with the region’s polyphonic folk songs.

After studying art in Moscow, he came to Georgia. Now, he promotes ancient Georgian wine tirelessly through the winery and his local restaurants, along with his wife, Ketevan Mindorashvili, who is a polyphonic musician and chef, as well as winemaker and business partner Gela Patalishvili.

What’s the relationship between Georgian wine, food and music?

When we started Pheasant’s Tears Winery and the restaurants, we looked at wine and cuisine as an extension of our ethnographic work. Ketevan was collecting traditional Georgian polyphonic songs, and my paintings [of local scenes] were financing the projects.

Georgian wines form a profound part of life here, and folks use it to celebrate even the ordinary. We have the tradition of the grand toastmasters and the supra [feasts]: Folk music and wine go hand-in-hand with food, a continuation of a very ancient tradition.

What draws you to Georgia?

It’s an ancient culture that’s still alive in spite of great periods of loss. We have an open society that is evolving, taking the wisdom of the past forward with creativity. To share these experiences with visitors, we created a specialized tour company, Living Roots, that delves into the history, winemaking and gastronomy still thriving in the countryside.

What do qvevri—terra cotta amphorae that traditionally were buried underground and used to make, age and store wine—mean to traditional Georgian winemaking culture?

When I met Gela, an eighth-generation winemaker from a farming family, in 2006, he was on a passionate quest to restore what was lost during the Soviet rule…The qvevri method was replaced by stainless steel and plastic barrels. Birds, snakes and bees were disappearing because of the rampant use of pesticides. We were fast losing the art of qvevri-making, too.

Qvevri wines showcase the elegance of the world’s oldest winemaking culture in a way where nature remains in control of the process.

Why do you advocate for natural wines?

Natural winemaking is simply a return to healthier farming and cellar practices before industrialization took place. If we are concerned about the provenance of the food we eat—how it’s treated, grown and harvested—then why not apply this ethos to our beverages?

Lunch at Pheasant Tear's Restaurant

Pheasant’s Tears was John Wurdeman’s first restaurant and the flagship venue for the culinary ideas of his team. It was created initially to be a nice way to offset Pheasant’s Tears wines and over the years has become an independent experimental culinary hub of its own.

Pictures: Pheasant’s Tears - Kitchen

The kitchen is led by Gia Rokashvili who goes himself to the farmer’s market everyday adapting the menu to what the forests, rivers, and meadows offer us combined with responsible local farmers goods. The idea is simple juxtapositions of very tasty ingredients, inspired largely by the way Georgian’s eat at home rather than restaurant food, that being said Gia loves cuisines from around the world and quietly tweaks his dishes according to the emotion of the moment.

Pictures: Lunch at Pheasant’s Tears

The Wines

We had 4 wines, all qvevri wines, two whites and 2 reds.

Pheasant's Tears: All our wines at Pheasant’s Tears are fermented and aged in qvevri, a unique Georgian vessel used to ferment and store wine.

Qvevri were the first vessels ever to be used for wine fermentation, with archaeological finds dating back to 6000 BC. Qvevri are clay vessels lined with beeswax and completely buried under the ground where the temperature stays eventhoughout the year, allowing the wines to ferment in the natural coolness of the earth.

Pheasant’s Tears qvevri vary in age but, some date back to the mid 19th C. We built our cellar in the vineyard itself to minimize the damage to the grapes in transportation, allowing us to harvest and press before the hot hours of the sun. It is usually a question of hours before the harvested grapes are already pressed and in the cool qvevri.

In accordance with Georgian traditional winemaking methods, the ripest of stems are added to the grape skins, juice and pits, for both our reds and our whites. The maceration time depends on varietal and the size of the qvevri and varies between 3 weeks and 6 months.

Since all of our wines are aged exclusively in qvevri, no flavors are imparted from oak barrels. What some might consider a lack of oak we view as an opportunity to let the quality of the grapes and the resulting wine shine through.

2018 Pheasant's Tears Chinuri Dry Unfiltered White Wine

2018 Pheasant's Tears Goruli Mtsvane Dry Unfiltered Amber Wine

2018 2018 Pheasant's Tears Tankveri Dry Unfiltered Red Wine

2018 Pheasant's Tears Saperavi Dry Unfiltered Red Wine

schiller-wine: Related Postings - Georgia Wine Tour 2019: Discovering the Birthplace of Wine (Published and Forthcoming Postings)

Georgia Wine Tour 2019: Discovering the Birthplace of Wine

Tour and Wine-pairing Lunch at Iago Winery in Mtskheta, with Cult-winemaker Iago Bitarishvili - Georgia Wine Tour 2019

Wine-pairing Lunch at John Wurdman's Pheasant's Tears Restaurant in Sghnaghi

Tasting and Dinner at Restaurant Schuchmann, with Managing Director/ Assistant Winemaker Roland Burdiashvili

Tour and Extensive Tasting at Tchotiashveli Estate, with Owner/ Cult-winemaker Kakha Tchotiashvili and Light Lunch at Tchotiashveli Estate

Tour, Tasting and Dinner at Martali Wine, with Owners/ Winemakers Nikoloz Bitskinashvili, Nikheil Bitskinashvili, and Thomas Schubaeus

Tour and Extensive Tasting at Château Mukhrani with General Manager/ Winemaker Patrick Honnef

At Mosmieri Winebar and Shop in Tbilisi, with Château Mosmieri Owner Joerg Matthies

No comments:

Post a Comment