Monday, September 08, 2008

Raise A Glass

In Saturday's WSJ, Eric Felten suggested a novel way to support Georgia (sub req):

The brandies of the Caucasus region -- Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan -- are known for their distinctive fruitcake sweetness. When the whisky writer Michael Jackson wanted to describe a single-malt Scotch as tasting of dried fruits and raisins, he would say it was redolent of Georgian brandy. I happened to have a bottle of Azerbaijani brandy on my shelf (the gift of a friend who had traveled there -- I've never seen it in a stateside liquor store), and I was able to pick up a rather more readily available bottle of Armenia's take on distilled wine. I tried them out, together with the Vartsikhe.

The Azerbaijani brandy was the most syrupy, heavy with tastes of toffee and chocolate; the Armenian brandy was very soft in the mouth, with lighter sweet notes of vanilla and cinnamon; the Georgian brandy was the closest in style to cognac, with the medium body and elegant balance of a French VSOP.

It's worth noting that Georgia's vintners also make a distinctive alternative to vodka, an indigenous grappa called chacha. Like the Italian eau-de-vie, chacha is distilled from wine and the leftovers of winemaking -- grape skins, seeds, and even a stem or two. I was able to find a chacha made by the Telavi Wine Cellar, a spirit that was aged just enough to give it a honey-tinged color and with a nice balance between the fire essential to any good grappa and the mellow sweetness of the original grapes.

Georgian brandy and chacha are delights, even without the geopolitical benefits of buying them. But there's no denying that added bonus. Richard Holbrooke writes that "so far, Moscow has failed in its real goal -- getting rid of Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's pro-democracy, pro-American president." A former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Holbrooke has been a vigorous advocate for bolstering Georgia with aid to keep the country, and its government, from collapsing of economic asphyxiation. "If Mikheil Saakashvili survives," Mr. Holbrooke writes, "Vladimir Putin loses." Now that's something worth toasting -- where's that claret glass?

I don't believe that I've ever had Georgian brandy before. I have had Armenian brandy courtesy of my favorite Armenian economist and it was quite good. I will definitely be looking for some of the Georgian liquor soon. Does anyone know if it's available locally?

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