MIR’s Tour: “A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture” (South Caucasus)

[Music of Georgian polyphonic singing] Music and mountains are just two reasons why I’m so taken with Georgia. It’s my favorite place in the world and, I think, everything you could wish for in a destination. Georgia has been called an “undiscovered little gem” of a country in the South Caucasus – big on beauty, history and culture, hospitality – – and most of all its legendary food and wine. [Wine glasses clink, toasting] I first visited Georgia in the early 1990s after it declared its independence from the Soviet Union, and I go back as often as I can. So many travelers ask me about Georgia that I decided to design a tour for MIR called “A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine and Culture.” These are a few of my favorite highlights: Georgia’s winemaking goes back some 8,000 years. It’s considered one of the the richest, but least known, wine regions in the world. What’s unique about winemaking in Georgia is the use of organic grapes aged in huge earthenware vessels called ‘qvevri,’ which are buried in the earth until the grapes ripen into wonderfully full-bodied wines. To me, there’s no better place to taste these unique organic wines than in the Kakheti region of Georgia. My favorite place is the tiny town of Signagi, at Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant & Winery. [Georgian music plays] In Georgia, where there’s wine there’s also feasting. Foods are rich and complex, fresh and flavored with a medley of spices. It’s all shown off at abundant feasts known as a ‘supra,’ or the “Georgian Table.” Over several hours, dozens of dishes are piled high on the table, and your wine glass is never empty – with frequent toasts given by the ‘tamada,’ or toastmaster. [Polyphonic singing before eating begins] Some of my favorite foods include ‘khachapuri,’ Georgia’s famous cheese pie; little dumplings called ‘khinkali;’ the salty cheese varieties that are made in every region of the country; and my absolute favorite – bread baked in clay ovens. This epicurean abundance is just one facet of Georgians’ generous hospitality. They know how to have a good time, and they want you to have one, too. It might be – dancing! [Georgian music, dancing] Or it could be polyphonic singing that sends shivers down your spine. [Georgian polyphonic singing] Beyond its fine wines and food, there’s much to see and do in Georgia. Some of my favorite places are the old town of the capital, Tbilisi, with the balcony architecture the city is famous for. I love the watchtowers of Svaneti where a distinctive way of life in this mountain region has been preserved for centuries. My latest favorite is the tiny Phoka nunnery in a village of the same name in southern Georgia, where nuns make their own absolutely fantastic chocolates and cheese. Georgia’s architecture and landscapes are bold and impressive, from the Caucasus Mountains to the Black Sea Coast, with monasteries, fortresses, vineyards, and cave towns in between. Georgia encompasses the “best of the best” that a country can offer. At MIR, we’re thrilled that our tour, “A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture,” is such a wonderful opportunity to experience the living traditions of Georgia through its chefs, winemakers, artisans, and musicians. You can find this truly unforgettable destination of Georgia at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

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