Obcha village in Baghdadi district is three hours from Tbilisi. It is a village unable to stop the exodus of young people to the capital, but which still preserves its traditions of winemaking.
22-year-old Baia Ghvaladze is working on her Master’s degree in Public Administration and works in the fi eld of Ethnic Minority Integration in the ‘Civic Integration Foundation. Baia is also trying to continue her family traditions of winemaking.
‘Baia’s Wine’ was fi rst produced last year in December and it is the fi rst serious step of a young lady winemaker. Since then Baia has become more active and apart from winemaking she also tries to promote wine tourism in Imereti Region which is less popular from this perspective.
OBCHA AND UNKNOWN TBILISI
“My parents are teachers and work in the village school; I have a 16-year-old brother and 20-year-old sister. We realized from our childhood that work should be divided equally and our whole family is involved when we have something to do. It has always been a natural and pleasant process of family obligation and not a heavy load! Working is an inseparable part of village life, just as we drive or buy bread in the city.
I did not know Tbilisi at all before becoming a student. I spent my whole childhood in Obcha village with my sister and brother. We visited the city only with our parents and by car. So, when I fi rst arrived here everything was totally new. Time has passed, but traffi c and traffi c lights still scare me. My key problem was fi nding streets and now I remember those days positively when I had to ask passersby how to reach this or that street.
It’s diffi cult to live in Tbilisi and feel happy in an urban space. There’s no feeling of freedom and all days are spent in rushing, noise and stress. Even if you’re very wealthy and close to all the city delights, it’s still diffi cult and everyday life in the city means you lack opportunities to feel certain happiness.
What I miss most while being in Tbilisi is calmness and green. When I come home, I gaze at the forest near our house and know I can never be separated from this place!”
“Our village has a moderate climate and is very good for winemaking. We produce three types of wines: Tsolikouri which is also known as Obchura; Tsitska-Tsolikouri and Tsiska-Tsolikouri-Krakhuna. Tsiska has a more sour taste and is usually used for sparkling wine. Tsolikouri has a peach aroma and smells like sweet flowers, and Krakhuna is really very delicious with a perfect aroma!
We pick grapes all day long and press them in the evening. If it is not pressed, it will start boiling. Pressed grapes need to be stirred three times daily and when it gets colder in winter, it stops boiling and should be put into a vessel – stainless steel or glass. Qvevri wine was unpopular in our region and clientele did not like the taste, but now we want to try to make our wine in Qvevri, in order to highlight and popularize its specific aroma.
My sister, brother and I have been involved in these activities since childhood. There is lot to do in vineyards, but by the end of August and the whole of September you are free before the harvest. My grandfather, Bondo Ghvaladze, is a winemaker and my uncle has also followed in his footsteps. Their house is located in a less sunny place and consequently the harvest starts later than in our vineyards, so after our harvest, we go to help them.
Each season is beautiful in Obcha, but the best is spring! We have lots of plum and peach trees and I love starting them rustling; it’s a moment when I feel that I can never get fed up with this landscape. The end of April and May is the most remarkable period when trees blossom and everything smells so nice that I can hardly imagine such a sweet aroma could exist anywhere on the earth!
PROFESSION – WINEMAKER
“After becoming a student, I got seriously interested in winemaking. I missed everything connected with wine in Tbilisi. I also noticed that the motivation of my parents has been slowly reducing in this sphere. It’s diffi cult to be concentrated in one fi eld when you have a lot to do. So, my aim was to broaden our horizons in winemaking in Tbilisi and provide my parents with more information.
‘Wine Club’ is an organization that arranges a series of lectures about winemaking twice a week, so I became a member of the club and have been attending these lecturers for three years. This was very useful experience and a good opportunity to gain theoretical skills. ‘Wine Club’ also initiates annual wine festivals and both our families are involved in it. The club has discovered us and has even bottled my uncle’s wine with the name ‘Zurab Ghvaladze’s Tsiska-Tsolikouri.’ It is a really good achievement! We started to bottle our wine in December 2015. I am fully involved in the production and sales process. Having tasted it once, everyone likes our wine.
The Georgian Farmers Association and its head, Nino Zambakhidze, have made a big contribution to popularizing our family business. I wrote them that I wanted to become a member and Nino accepted my initiative positively, asking me everything in detail and afterwards putting the information on a social network. As a result, more than 1500 people have sent me their friend requests from different regions of Georgia and even from foreign countries. Journalists have also contacted me.”
FROM DREAM TO PLANS
I have lots of aims and at present I plan to learn languages fluently. I was learning German and Russian at school and I started English after becoming a student. And I have good results.
I have a dream that my and my uncle’s families are like the families of Italian winemakers. Nowadays, our purpose is to maintain the quality and quantity of our wine. As far as it is our family business, we don’t want it to become a factory in order to reach a larger scale. I also dream of organizing an interesting trip for my parents, somewhere in a foreign country.
They have spent all their lives working and I don’t remember a day when my father got up later than 5 or 6 a.m. I think that my biggest achievement at 22 is that my parents and grandparents are really very pleased that I am continuing their traditions. People tell my grandpa that he has a very good granddaughter and he is extremely happy. It is also very pleasant news for me that my sister and brother are very motivated to join me in this business and my brother has even chosen the profession of winemaking and is already a fi rst-year student.
I love wine and I am connected with it by a professional link. While tasting wine, I pay attention to its aroma and also what kind of mood it can provoke. An extremely interesting business!
I think that you are happy when you do what you love. You should slowly follow your aim and if it’s positive, you are sure to meet people who will give you a hand on your way. I can’t tell you beforehand about my future – whether I will live in Tbilisi or return to Obcha, but one thing that I know for sure is that I plan to be connected to winemaking all my life!