Posted by: tomciocco | July 14, 2010


For very particular occasions, or in honor of a special guest, Georgians will throw down a supra. No, not the Toyota.  Essentially a supra is a large, semi-programmed dinner with a cornucopia of dishes. Everything about a supra must be considered to maximize its effect: from the proper chemistry of the guests, to the room and table settings, the choice of a skillful tamada (a sort of  roll-up of host/toastmaster/maitre d’/philosopher), and of course,  perfectly judged, paired and contrasted plates of lavish and dramtic dishes and wines served in continuously breaking waves.

Alas, or perhaps thankfully, no supra  tonight, but what I did make was a small array of Georgian dishes with what was in season (I somehow managed to find a good pomegranate this early), and that I felt captured that elusive combination of multiple, and often very complex dishes that the Georgian eater always pursues. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy – colors, textures, flavors, and temperatures (a single Georgian meal can contain multiple dishes served cold, room temperature, as well as hot.) have to produce just the right harmonies or the often exotic and assertive flavors will muddle or clash…

And as most folks now know, Georgia is the birthplace of wine (3000 B.C.), and was perhaps even the root word for wine in Latin, and therefore all of the Romance languages: ghvino. The ghvino I served was made entirely from the  Saperavi grape from the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti. With Georgia being the cradle of viticulture, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Saperavi is just one of over 400 native vine varieties, though Saperavi is almost surely the most renowned. Saperavi is a dark, spicy, and fundamentally acidic variety that has a strong personality, but has a certain lightness that allows it to hold its own against most comers from the table.

A short word on wine counterfeiting…Surely a credit to at least the reputation of Georgian wine if not the actual results,which can indeed be STUNNING, there are those who would and do sell fake Georgian wine. Where it comes from, what it is really, and how it got from there to anywhere else is impossible to say for the consumer, and as of yet the Georgian government has not come up with a system to assure quality, place of origin, etc., so buy from the best shops, and while I’d never normally say that pricier is better, in this case I would say that cheaper is dodgier for sure…

So back to the food.  I started the dinner with a very simple chilled, thick puree`of cooked spinach, strained yogurt, cilantro and garlic with the best (not so good) lavash/lavashi I could find (Georgian bread is unique, delightful, and very hard to get, but that’s the subject of another post). Turkish pide, though not at all Georgian, somehow “feels” better with a Georgian meal than almost any other store-bought bread, but it’s also not easy to lay your hands on. What’s closest to a tone`-baked (a tone` is a tandoori-like Georgian bread oven) bread like a Shoti  is either an Indian naan that you’ll have to run out and get just before you serve dinner (I’ve done it, and it’s a pain in the ass), or an untopped pizza, that you’ll have to run out and get just before…

Continuing…I then served a tryptych of grilled, Georgian-spiced kebabs (coriander, barberries, etc.) with red onion, sumac, and chopped cilantro; “Japanese” eggplants stuffed with walnut and herb puree` with pomegranate seeds; and a short hand plavi (pilaf) with carrots and raisins…Tasting notes and photos:












Telavi Wine Cellar Saperavi “Marani” non-vintage


Very deep and intense garnet/purple color.  Aromas of prune, blackberry, black coffee, dark flowers, aromatic woods, and a touch of green pepper. The palate has a lean and chewy texture with tea-like tannins, tart flavors of sour cherry and black currant, and a fairly long and warm finish. A robust and vivacious wine.






  1. Tom, great post. I’ve always been interested to try real Georgian wines, but have never been able to find them. It seems no matter where I’ve worked, and I work/have worked for very nice shops, we all seem to carry the same line of wine that I’ve been told is “fake”. Where do you find Georgian wines that aren’t that one line that we all know and dislike?

    • Hey Alec,

      I got this one at the big liquorama by the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City…I like Telavi Wine Cellars as a producer, and Teliani Valley even more, but saying precisely where to find them at any given time can be tough. I just look every chance I get, and go by feel. The packaging is usually a giveaway…The really crappy ones are almost always bad, and probably fake.


  2. “The packaging is usually a giveaway…The really crappy ones are almost always bad, and probably fake.”

    Are you suggesting the sparkler I picked up for the change of the Millennia (00-01) that played “My Way” when the cork was popped was a bad wine? How dare you sir… Next you will be telling me the Ukrainian wine that comes in the violin shaped bottle is plonk!

    • “I’ve always been interested to try real Georgian wines, but have never been able to find them”

      You can make them at home it’s not difficult, read more here

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