Founded in 1996
"Chocolates" by Galina Dargery (2016)
IN THIS ISSUE
OUT AND ABOUT IN PARIS
By Geoff Kalish
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. September 21 at 11AM EDT,I will be featuring the most beautiful songs of the great female vocalists of all time. Go to: WVOX.com. The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.
OUT AND ABOUT IN PARIS
By Geoff Kalish
addition to the great art at the
Orsay, Pompidou Center, Louvre and l’Orangerie,
on a recent visit to Paris we
found two not-to-be-missed exhibits. The Elsa
Schiaparelli fashion presentation
at the Musée
des Arts Décoratifs
(through January 22) near the Louvre
at 107 Rue de Rivoli (below) not only
drawings and actual fashion creations of the
haute couture Italian designer but
also provides photos, news clips and other
material reflective of her life-long
friendships with many surrealist artists and
their influence on her eclectic
clothing. And the periodically changing, newly
opened billionaire François
Pinault’s contemporary art collection (1960s to
present, currently including a
mesmerizing light exhibit and fish balloons that
you set afloat) is at The Bourse
de Commerce, a grandiose
building once home to the Grain Exchange.
Café de L'Époque
Located a few
minutes walk from our
hotel, this unassuming establishment with a
turn-of-the-century style interior
and a large outdoor terrace offers a wide choice
of top-flight French
bistro-style fare, with friendly, professional
service and a short but above
average selection of wine.
Les Fines Gueules
Recommended by our hotel concierge, this
“wine bar” (also walking distance from our hotel)
was situated inside and on
the adjacent sidewalk of a corner building dating
from the 17th century.
Dinner, with a wide range of choices from a
daily-changing blackboard menu, was
served on apricot-hued cloths by knowledgeable,
on a quiet street, a short
walk from the Place de la Concorde, this bistro
serves fare that’s every bit as
good as a Michelin-starred restaurant, and in
fact better than some. And, while
seating is in a narrow room with dark wood
walls, it is most pleasurable to sit
on the tented terrace in front of the
establishment. Service, China and wine
glasses are first class.
And for a falafel fix, head to the Marais area and wait in line at L’As du Falafel (34 Rue de Rossiers) for a pita stuffed with fried balls of falafel (ground chickpeas and spices), tahini dressing plus an accompaniment like grilled eggplant piled on top. If the inside is crowded, take your food out and head down the street to the park and grab a bench. ($8 for the basic falafel.)
Dr. Geoff Kalish writes about wine for several publications. He lives in Bedford, NY.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
was trying to hold last week when
I visited Benjamin Prime on Manhattan’s East
Side, whose office buildings are
again filling up and whose occupiers are hungry
for a great steak dinner. Just
past twilight the temperature was in the low
70s, making it a capital idea to
dine al fresco within a beautifully designed,
well-lighted tent space trimmed
in greenery with a pleasing view of passersby.
The moon was in its three-quarters phase,
and New York seemed at peace
again after the distress of the pandemic. (I’m
told the outdoor section,
remain open through
for lunch and dinner
Monday-Friday; dinner Saturday and Sunday.
By John Mariani
To read previous chapters of ANOTHER VERMEER, go to the archive
"September Double Ninth Festival," Taipei National Museum
flight to Taipei on China Airlines
was going to be close to 17 hours, leaving at
the ungodly hour of 12:20 a.m.,
which Katie thought was just fine because she
had no trouble sleeping on a
plane, even though they were arriving a whole
day later at 5:30 in the morning
Taiwan time. David never slept well on an
airplane, except when he and Katie
flew together to Italy on the Capone case and
she fell asleep on his shoulder.
© John Mariani, 2016
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
AFTER YEARS OF RUSSIAN
NEGLECT, GEORGIA’S WINE INDUSTRY
By John Mariani
During the Soviet occupation of Georgia, the communists forced its growers to produce quantity rather than quality, and even under Gorbachev’s more paternalistic anti-alcohol directives, he cut the quantity but also the amounts exported to Russia. Since the mid-1990s, however, Georgia, with an 8,000 year-old history of viniculture, has increased its regional and international profile, now with 525 grape varieties grown on 55,000 hectares under cultivation and 1,100 wine companies licensed to sell commercially, with 93.4 million bottles exported to 53 countries for sales of $238 million.
To gain perspective on this rapidly growing industry, I spoke with George Margvelashvili (left), who hosted the 10th International Organization for Vine and Wine Congress, the same year his Tbilvino’s first winery was opened in Tbilisi, and a a second in 2008 in Kakheti, the main wine region of Georgia; in 2014, then with his brother planted 405 hectares in Kakheti. Also, I spoke with Joerg Matthies (right), owner of the Mosmieri Winebar and Shop in Tbilisi. Their comments have been combined.
Georgian viticulture is ancient dating back to 5000 BC, and the Middle Ages were its so-called Golden Age of wine. Why? What grapes did they use?
According to scientists, the first Neolithic grape seeds found in Georgia (Kvemo Kartli) date back 8,000 years. From that time onwards, viticulture and winemaking were continuously carried out on the territory of Georgia. This distinguishes our country from others in the region. There is no era, without archaeological, ethnographic, historical or written material on Georgian viticulture and winemaking from Neolithic to the present day.
There are probably many varieties that did reach nowadays, of which we know neither the name nor has ever seen anyone born in the 21-20 and 19th centuries. However, all those varieties that are widespread today have a rather long time to come. From sources we know that such varieties as Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi, Mtsvivani, Tsolikouri, Alexandrouli, etc. existed in the Middle Ages. However, it's very interesting to know what characters did the grapes have before phylloxera.
The Soviets had the so-called 5-year plans that pushed quantity over quality. They ignored all those interesting ancient grapes and planted only 3-4 varieties that were most resistant to diseases and yielded biggest quantities. That is why Georgia now has huge vineyards of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi and few vineyards of other varieties, though many interesting varieties like Kisi and Khikivi were almost lost. We are trying to rediscover forgotten grapes and grow them in our vineyards. We [Margvelashvili] have currently 8 varieties that are grown in our vineyards: Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Kisi, Kakhetian Mtsvane, Khikhvi, Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Kakhetian Mtsvivani. We plan to add more varieties in future because we see that they yield beautiful results that are absolutely worth the effort.
Gorbachev wanted to cut back on production as part of an ate-alcohol campaign. How did this affect the industry?
In general, we feel like any industry should be regulated by the market. It does not do any good when the government artificially and forcefully interferes and tries to change the flow of things governed by the market. This was true for Gorbachev’s forceful attempts at an anti-alcohol campaign, obviously it damaged the industry mainly affecting big state enterprises. However public and farmer families kept practicing viticulture and winemaking
the mid 1990s the
industry started to show signs of new life and by
2000 began reviving when exports
to Russia were not yet banned, which happened in
2006. It was a difficult and
painful transition from a centrally planned economy
to a market economy but it
happened nevertheless. New, private wineries emerged
that started to make wines
and attempted to introduce them to the world. Closed
by the Iron Curtain
Georgians who had been making wine for at least 8000
years, had to learn modern
winemaking methods, as well as find our own foreign
markets Only after 2010 did
the industry really gain strength, owing to tourism
think that this learning
continues today. Since late 1990s we have worked
with foreign winemakers and
wine consultants from different countries such as
Australia, France, Italy to
finetune our technological process and get the best
out of Georgian grapes and
terroirs. Among the challenges remaining is the huge
dependence on the new Russian market
(58% in 2021) and the relatively low awareness on
western markets. We are the
only sizable winery in Georgia to have fully stopped
sales to Russia since the
start of the war in Ukraine. All of our efforts are
now focused on entering and
increasing our presence on western and Asian markets
(UK, USA, Germany, China,
South Korea, etc.).
Am I correct that there are 10 recognized areas now? Kakheti, Imereti, etc.
Qvevri is an egg-shaped clay vessel with a pointed bottom where the wine is made. The qvevri is buried in the ground. Grape juice together with skins and seeds is poured into the qvevri where it is fermented and macerated for 5-6 months. During this time, the wine is with skins thus greatly impacting the wine, which acquires amber color, structure and rich bouquet of aromas. Such wines are becoming popular in the world under the name of Amber wines. In 2013, UNESCO recognized qvevri as part of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. What is important is that qvevri has been alive throughout the history of Georgian people and is still very much alive today. This is a living tradition counting 8000 years. Many families around Georgia make wine for themselves in qvevri. We started producing qvevri wine in 2011. It was just one wine and in very small quantities. Now we produce five different wines in qvevri. It is still a small part of our production but is growing.
How much wine is made semi-sweet?
George is actually don’t drink semi sweet wines. These wines such as Alazany valley, Kindzmarauli or Khvanchkara became popular during the Soviet union. Even today Russia along with most other post-Soviet countries in China are the most important destinations for semi sweet wines. At Château Mosby area we produce less than 10% semi-sweet or semi-dry wines because dry wines are much more demand of the premium sing.
At our wineries [Margevelahvili] it is difficult to say exactly but a lot. In our portfolio the share of dry wines is increasing due to the reason that the share of western countries in our export geography is widening. Plus, as I said earlier, we had to exit the Russian market and increase our focus on more stable markets where dry wines are more appreciated.
I can say that wine production in Georgia is booming. There are hundreds of wine producers from tiny, one-man operations to family wineries to big, large-scale producers. Last year Georgian exported more that 90 million bottles, plus local consumption. We managed to sell more than 5.5 million bottles in 30 different countries. Chateau Mosmieri they current production capacity of 130,000 bottles per year made from more than 21 ha
Where are Georgian wines exported?
The biggest export market for Georgian wines was Russia (58% of all Georgian wine exports in 2021 went there). Other top markets include Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, China, Baltic States, etc. We are working a lot to increase presence and sales in other markets such as the UK, USA, Germany, South Korea, etc. It is a difficult process, but we feel that being successful on stable markets is the right way to develop.
Has climate change affected the vineyards?
Yes, of course and that’s why all our vineyards are equipped with drip irrigation systems. Also harvest shifted closer to summer and many other factors to which our vineyards must be adopted and our viticulturist team have to consider.
With what other countries do Georgia’s prices compete?
Depending on the markets Georgian wines share shelves with numerous other country wines such as Spain, Italy, New World, etc. Georgian wines cannot compete by price because there are plenty of lower-priced wines on the world market. Georgian wines should compete with quality, uniqueness, and history behind it. In mass wine segments Georgia competes with countries such as Moldova and other Eastern European countries as well as low price wineries from major wine producing countries like Australia, Argentina, Chile in South America
THE HIGH ANXIETY THAT PLAGUES AMERICA'S FOOD WRITERS!
occasions feel as high stakes as your birthday
party. What if nobody comes? Is everyone happy with
the venue? Are the vibes correct? Are we having fun
yet? After working through the above concerns with
my therapist, I celebrated my July birthday at a
charming wine bar in Brooklyn."—Becky Hughes, "It's
Your Party and I'll Dine Out If You Want to." NY
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❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to two excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences."
John Curtas has been covering the Las Vegas food scene since 1995. He is the author of EATING LAS VEGAS - The 52 Essential Restaurants, and his website can be found at www.EatingLV.com. You can find him on Instagram: @johncurtas and Twitter: @eatinglasvegas.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher
Mariani, Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish.
Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical
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