Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wine Weekend!!!

If you know even the first thing about Georgia, you know that Georgians like wine. A lot. And that most Georgian families in the grape-producing regions have their own little vineyards and make homemade wine each fall. Sometimes that homemade wine is very good; sometimes it tastes like…well, less than good. Regardless, it sure is fun to make! Which I found out last weekend when Ryan’s host family showed me how Georgians make wine. Or at least how they do it in Dimi.

Ryan Nickum returning from a long day in the fields. Sporting capri pants. It's okay though, he's a vintner.

Ryan and I with Omari with the wine press.

The obvious first step is to harvest the grapes. I missed out on most of this unfortunately, but I got to cut a few vines. So, we cut the grapes, threw the nice, plump ones in a bucket but chucked the rotten, raisin-like ones. Right? Wrong. Even the dry and shriveled ones are not to be wasted. Once the vines are bare, divide the grapes into red and white and get ready for the next step: crushing.

Crushing grapes by hand!
I admit that I had a naïve notion that I’d get to stomp grapes with my feet. But no, I guess that takes way too long and would probably result in even funkier-tasting wine. So instead, we crushed them with this homemade contraption shown below, made by Ryan’s host father Omari, a real wine-enthusiast (well, a Georgian wine enthusiast. When he tried Greek wine we’d received as a gift in Greece, he took a sip and then left the room in disgust).

Ryan host parents Omari and Lela and the grape-crushing machine.

You probably think that before we crushed the grapes, we washed them and removed things such as stems and leaves and spiders from the bunch. Wrong again! All that stuff is fine, really. Because when the fermentation process begins, all of those germs and stuff just die. Like how boiling water kills parasites. Right?

After taking a spin through the crushing machine, it’s time for the press. This is the longest part of the process. Once the juice starts pouring out, it’s time to transport it to a big blue plastic barrel, as I am doing here.

Sometimes, before we start the press, we get to use this big caveman club to squish the grapes. I didn’t really see the point, but it was really fun to use.

Ryan and the beloved wine press.
Next we poured wine into these thick glass barrels, where it will sit until siphened out for a supra.

The fruits of our labor. So proud.

The processes for making different varieties of whites and reds were slightly different, but I’m a little fuzzy on the details. Some of the red varieties were only crushed, not pressed, or then combined with a different grape and then pressed, etc. All I know is that making wine is fun and that I want to do it again.