I’d like to propose a toast to the Georgian grape harvest.
To Georgia’s ancient ladies and their pirate knives and three-legged stools, their hair in scarves to deflect the burrs I still find in my socks.
To a total lack of mechanisation, organisation and weather stations; and to zero early starts.
To Ramaz’s family and his wild vines small and gnarly in all their hundred — he thinks — years; the yeast-footed and furious, wildly drunk bees; leftover lobio lunches and salty cheese.
To the village of Dimi, Imereti, and to Didimi; to his inky grapes Dzelshavi. To his seventy-plus years, potato-nose, wines and tiny turbaned wife.
To all Georgian wives.
To the Georgian make-do mentality and their boundless practicality about things like weighing grapes on bathroom scales.
To the land: in October still green and bountiful. The sun-tipped always present mountains pink and blue, (already) white-capped and gold and very beautiful.
To the blunt secateurs and broken black crates and thick plastic bags stuffed full of suffocating grapes. And to the vineyards: full of beans growing wiggly in-between with me tripping all day over cornstalks, apparently unable to learn from my mistakes.
To beans for breakfast after nights spent up to bruised knees stomping grapes to the smell of garlic.
To making new friends, new wines, to Ènek! To her tarot card readings however true or non symbolic.
To the masters of clay and their qvevri: big and small, round, full, fat and empty. To each their mystery, independence and individuality. To tucking them in with wet sand at night, singing. To punch downs with your arms and late marani nights sip-sipping.
Then the next day: to the highlands of Racha, everywhere apple orchards, herbal air, clapboard houses and crustacean-packed soils for a full day of supra-ing with hours of many long and layered toasts.
To the families we’d call poor but who give and give and live so rich. To their humanity and generosity, that special Georgian breed of fraternity — to their homemade khinkali! — and to the practice of the two-high stacked dish.
And last of all a glass to picking from pergolas: may your ladder be with your heart — always in the right place.