Christmas means different things to everyone but to me it means dodging career talks and getting new pyjamas. It doesn’t stop there – There is much, much more not to like. To pick but a few from the Grinch’s hat: Rampant commercialism, Christmas music, Christmas TV, Christmas hats, him and her and ‘for the cooks in your life’ gift guides, stocking stuffers, stuffing, my dad’s New World, trillion per cent ABV Malbecs and how, once a year, those ‘people out there’ who think climate change is a liberal hobby are, in fact, in your house and one’s your uncle and you’re probably gonna have to sit next to him at lunch.
Oh, so also: Christmas lunch.
So what to do on a day so full of lemons? The saying advocates lemonade, but too much of that can’t be good for your teeth. Better stick with wine; it is Christmas after all.
Here are six of my Georgian picks to get you through the day.
For your dose of holiday cheer before the family arrives –
Ramaz Nikoladze, “I am Dimi from Didimi and this is my Aladasturi” 2016
A glass or three of this Georgian glouglou made by Ramaz Nikoladze (with grapes grown by Didimi) will steel you for your uncle’s HO HO HO. Smells like nails in a tin can and tastes like volcanic blueberry shaved ice with crushed rose sprinkles. Drink chilled, stay chill.
For when they arrive –
Didimi Maghlakelidze, “I am Didimi from Dimi and this is my Tsolikouri” 2015
Made by the 70 odd-year-old but still spunky Didimi with Tsolikouri, a native grape to the area (Imereti) but — more importantly — made with only a few days skin maceration so it’ll look almost exactly the same as those warm glasses of oaked Chardonnay the rest of your family’s clutching which ought to keep you under the radar of those who, lest you dare be drinking otherwise, would enjoy calling you ‘difficult’.
Tastes like sea-fresh sashimi of Anjou pear, Honeydew soda breeze and the water reflections bouncing off the underside of your straw hat on the first day of vacation.
For when your aunt wants to know ‘everything you’ve been up to lately’ –
Lagazi, “Rkatsiteli” 2015
By which of course you know she means career wise, which of course makes you think of those successful, winemaking, under 30 year-olds you’re not but you know or don’t actually know — like this guy — whose Rkatsiteli tastes like lemon-zest laced papaya lava with boozy raisin giesers and looks like nuclear persimmon juice (and which of course you’re not going to answer).
Finally it’s lunch time. Except by the time you’ve escaped your aunt the only seat left is next to your climate change denial uncle. What to talk about?
Vino Martville, “Tsolikouri – Krakhuna” 2016
If you can’t beat them, stump them. Shake their world view out from under them. What, wine from Georgia? — no, not that one uncle — the birthplace of wine no one in Burgundy told me about? Sure! And look, it’s orange. [Pours.]
(At the risk of running into environmental-related issues, you could also talk about how this winemaker — Zaza Gagua – is head ranger of a beautiful national park in Samegrelo in the West and how you almost cried at the bottom of the Kinchkha waterfall surrounded by big Georgians eating big watermelons and knocking back cha cha it was so beautiful. Or maybe just keep it simple like, ‘Isn’t it amazing how wine can taste like honey-drenched velvet and rotting apricots and not just ‘grape’?’)
For instead of desert when everyone else is eating desert –
Pheasant’s Tears, “Mtsvane” 2015
Because why interrupt a winning streak with food? Seventy-five year old vines with 10 days skin maceration and nine months in qvevri make for a luscious swirl of Manuka honey in a hand-thrown bowl of whipped almond ricotta and Sencha ice cream topped with thyme and crystal dust. Or like my mom says when something slips down easy: “Got no bones”.
For when everyone’s left and you’re finally alone in front of the fire –
Mariam Iosebidze, “Tavkveri” 2016
Mariam’s Tavkveri tastes like riding beast-back through a pickled hibiscus ocean. Like turbid ruby jungle punch and fireworks and smoked damask rose with moon-high acidity that slices like a lightsaber through deep space. So it ought to also be able to cut through lunch and that nagging feeling you’re just getting jaded; you used to love Christmas.
Whatever. Saving the best ’til last is what I call getting wiser.