In a country considered the oldest wine-producing region of the world and the birthplace of vine, that still boasts more than 500 grape varieties, and whose national identity is closely entwined with its viticulture traditions, one hundred delegates from five regions gathered in late July for the first national Terra Madre Georgia meeting, with an entire day of the two-day event dedicated to winemaking.
“An incredible variety of delegates got together for the first time during this event: associations of farmers, local food communities, members from the youth farmers’ movement, academics, students, environmental activists, journalists and cooks,” said Maka Stamateli, Slow Food Tbilisi Convivium leader. “Some of them have never had a chance to meet together before now, and Terra Madre Georgia provided a platform for future cooperation, and a chance to develop relationships with institutions interested in supporting their work.”
Participants took part in workshops, discussions and tastings over the event, held in the country’s capital, Tbilisi. During the workshops, a number of issues related to winemaking were discussed, including the terrace method of viticulture, used centuries ago and now almost forgotten. Producers of the Slow Food Georgian Wine in Jars Presidium engaged in discussion, and offered their Saperavi and Rkatziteli to the delegates.
A number of other issues were also covered during the event, including ecotourism, agroecology, organic farming, and beekeeping, Georgia’s other significant production. Discussion centred around topics relevant to local small producers: small-scale plots that require specific techniques; land ownership; problems of access to the market and middlemen role; youth abandoning rural areas and lack of trained professionals in the field.
The country’s location in the Caucasus mountain chain, with its several peaks rising higher than 5,000 metres, is responsible for the nature of its agriculture. Farmers own mostly small allotments in the valleys, where private plots do not produce large volumes of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, the improvement of soil productivity, use of low impact technologies and access to the market are the themes common to many communities, from Kartli fruit growers to Tusheti cheese makers to Kakheti beekeepers.
The delegates brought their produce to exhibit and taste: zulispira and ospi beans, honey from Kakheti and Racha regions, melons and watermelons from Kakheti. Terra Madre chef, Manuel Faundes-Baranda, prepared wallnut lobio (green beens), charkhlis potoli (beetroot leaves with walnuts), khachapuri (traditional flatbread stuffed with Imereti cheese), and kada (flatbread with a filling of melted butter, sugar and flour). In addition, a monastery provided its matsoni (fermented cow’s milk drink) in terra cotta jars.
Slow Food Tbilisi also set up a sensory education area, using the materials of Slow Food education kit, “Journey to the Origins of Taste”. The conivivium now plans to start the first pilot sensory education project within a public school in Tbilisi, including working with children with learning difficulties.
Terra Madre Georgia was possible thanks to the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture, City Hall, the Georgian Orthodox Church and the “On Marco Polo’s Track 2010” scientific expedition along the Silk Road, that visited Georgian Terra Madre food communities the day after the event to study the genetics of taste and food preferences.
Read more about Marco Polo’s Track on the Terra Madre website
For more information on Marco’s Polo’s Track
For more information on Georgian Terra Madre communities: