As in every part of the world, Christmas is a special celebration in Georgia. It’s a special day when families gather and homes are occupied by delicious Christmas flavours.
Food and wine are a major part of the festivities in Georgia. We don’t have one specific dish related to the Christmas celebration, like the American Thanksgiving Day relates to turkey. Us Georgians are pretty generous when we talk about festivities, as we cook of course for ourselves, but we also expect to share the happiness with our friends, relatives and neighbours. With this, every Georgian family prepares twice as much food than necessary so that leftovers may remain for even a week after the celebration.
Like Italy, France and many other European countries, Georgian cuisine is linked with different wine regions and varies from east to west. While the eastern part of the country is all about meat-dominated dishes, the western regions serve vegetarian salads and less heavy food.
We’re sure you’d agree that the food and wine pairing experience is one of the tiny pleasures we can’t refuse. So here are some tips on pairing Georgian wine with traditional Georgian dishes.
Salmon with Chinuri
You will always find high-quality seafood on a traditional Georgian festive table. Salmon (ორაგული) is the main fish variety to be chosen by us Georgians. Not only fish but caviar is a highly appreciated appetizer as well. The wine and food pairing rules pairs seafood dishes perfectly with sparkling or light-bodied white wines. Christmas and New year are just the right times to create a festive mood with Iago’s Chinuri.
Chinuri, as a soft-bodied, delicate wine, pairs perfectly with fatty, textured seafood dishes.
Khachapuri with Tsitska-Tsolikouri-Krakhuna
Georgia is famous for different versions of Khachapuri (ხაჭაპური), related specifically to the different regions of the country. The most popular Khachapuri in Georgia originates from Imereti (Western Georgia). It should be served and eaten warm in order to taste the melted cheese texture inside the pie.
Khachapuri is a simple and universal Georgian dish that can be paired with various white grape varieties from different regions of Georgia. However, the best pairing for Khachapuri is light-bodied, citric white wine. Crisp and highly acidic wine can easily balance the heaviness of the cheese and dough combination.
If you are seeking an extraordinary pairing, you should definitely try Montepulciano rosé from Tchotiashvili winery, which will exceed your expectations.
Satsivi with Rkatsiteli
We could say that Satsivi (საცივი) is the main element of Georgian festive Supra. It is a combination of lots of walnuts, garlic and different spices mixed in a Turkey Bouillon. Depending on the personal taste of your family members, you can find different variations of Satsivi on Christmas Eve. This delicious walnut sauce goes with any boiled meat like chicken, duck or turkey. Satsivi is traditionally served cold and should be paired with full-bodied amber wines from Kakheti. In order to neutralize the intensive flavours of the dish, it requires the full-bodied, tannic, but complex Kakhetian style wines with six-month skin maceration in Qvevri.
Choose Kviriashvili’s Rkatsiteli - one of the best representations of Kakhetian traditional amber wines.
Mtsvadi with Saperavi
Mtsvadi (მწვადი) is a Georgian synonym for the barbeque, and it is mainly made from pork. Beef barbeque is more common in Western Georgia than in the eastern part of the country. Unlike Satsivi or Gozinakhi, Mstavdi is less related to Christmas or New year as it represents the food mostly served during any celebration. We serve Mtsvadi during any festive occasion: picnics, birthdays, friendly gatherings, anytime we have a reason to celebrate! Unlike a regular barbeque, Mtsvadi is fried only on a vine cane, which gives an additional flavour and slightly smoky mouthfeel.
Red, dry, full-bodied Qvevri Saperavi from Teleda/Orgo would be an ideal pairing for the barbeque.
Churchkhela and Gozinakhi
As you can probably gather, many Georgian dishes, salads and even deserts contain walnuts. Churchkhela (ჩურჩხელა) and Gozinakhi (გოზინაყი) are the main desserts for the Christmas and New Year celebration. While Churchkhela is made with grape juice and walnut, Gozinakhi is created with honey and slight peels of walnut. Georgian desserts are exceptionally tasty and great energizers at the same time. It is said that in old times, Georgian soldiers kept Churchkhela with them as a source of energy.
We recommend matching Churchkhela with semi-sweet Saperavi and choosing fortified wine for Gozinakhi.
As you can see, Georgian cuisine is versatile. The famous Silk Road enormously benefited from Georgian cuisine, making it richer and its offerings even more delicious. Despite the historical influences, Georgia managed to maintain the original tastes of its cuisine while also adopting flavours and spices from its surrounding cultures.
If you are searching for a gastronomic adventure, Georgia should definitely be listed among your must-visit destinations. There is no better place in the world for finding dishes that perfectly combine Eastern and Western culture.
By Tamuka Araviashvili, the wine-educator from Georgia