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Kvevri 1


A tale on Georgian wine and changing traditions by our writer-in-residence Dato Turashvili

The Georgians experience a peace they never had before. But is this the peace Dato Turashvili's forefathers were wishing for all those years?

Happiness for me does not exist without writing and I was really happy in Amsterdam – I had time for writing a new book, for reading old books and for deep reflective thinking. Everything was so well organized by NIAS’ staff, that it is hard to remember a time and place when and where I felt more comfortable than in Amsterdam, as I met many nice people – very clever scholars from countries around the world.

The first book that I bought in Amsterdam was on the exact day when the first case of coronavirus was identified in the Netherlands. It was a book from my childhood – “To Have and Have Not” by Ernest Hemingway. I bought it in the hope that re-reading the story would take me back to my childhood in Georgia.

But, as they say, happiness does not last forever, and sooner than expected I was urged to return to Georgia where my family was awaiting me, including a new member of our family – Maltese puppy Tafunia.

Nobody knows why, but currently the situation in Georgia is better compared to other countries – we only had about 300 people infected by Coronavirus in the first three months. When officials talk about the reasons for this success, they argue that the Georgian government manages so well in controlling the virus because it works as a team. The opposition, however, claims that Georgian doctors are the reason why we can control the pandemic process.

Aside from these theories, there is also an alternative opinion about these initially low numbers of infections: a lot of Georgians believe that Georgian wine helps us to protect ourselves from this pandemic. Of course, this is a joke, but as they say, every joke contains at least some truth.

The truth is that there are a few wine countries, but Georgia is the only country where a traditional Kvevri wine exists. Kvevri means a pitcher – it’s like a wine jar set into the ground. It is said that exactly this mixture of clay, earth, and grapes makes Georgian wine so different from its mainstream counterpart. The main corona joke in our country is about Georgian genetics which has a huge influence on Kvevri wine for eight thousand years, which is the age of grape pips found by archeologists in Georgia. This is why from the beginning Georgian life is so deeply with wine, and many aspects in life are deeply connected with wine and Supra rituals: birth or death, happiness or trouble, joy, or sorrow. A Supra is a Georgian table – a place to meet, talk about everything: discuss topics, sing or joke, to say toasts, and more. It happens almost every day and everywhere in Georgia (every family in every Georgian village has a vineyard and a cellar, and it is very easy to explain why there are 521 different sorts of wine in this country).

Videlicet was happening before the Coronavirus reached Georgia and the government declared an emergency state that changed the Georgian style of life – instead of often visiting each other, we started having evening fiestas on the internet. Using Skype, Zoom, or Whatsapp the Georgians imagine that they are together – around the same table drinking and singing not only Georgian folk songs but also making toasts to the brave doctors saving those in danger.

In the beginning we liked the new reality with hobnobbing on the screens of our iPhones, laptops, or iPads, but I admit that I have started to miss real life, real friends, and real relations. It turns out that a virtual life does not give the same pleasure from relationships with people who, in normal life, thanks to their intrinsic energy create special dynamics between human beings.

Georgia is a small country that has always been on the crossroads of a very big Empire, and for many centuries we have fought for our freedom. That is why the first, number one and the most important toast when Georgians drink, is to Peace. But now we discover that this is a peace we never had before. It is a different peace and not the peace our forefathers were wishing for. On the contrary, it feels more like silence than peace. That is why, these days, some Georgians have started to change the ancient rules of Georgian Supra, and the first toast became a toast to love (which was the second toast before). And maybe that is the right thing to do, because as John Lennon said – what do we need now and all we need now, really, is love…