Geoffrey Roberts Award 2004 goes to Georgian winemaker

9 Jan 2005 by JR

2005 international travel bursary worth £3,000 (nearly $6,000) launched. Please spread the word to suitable applicants of any age, anywhere. See www.geoffreyrobertsaward.com

 

The 2004 Geoffrey Roberts Award, a travel bursary worth at least £3,000 (nearly $6,000) was won by 31 year-old Shalva Khetsuriani, of the eponymous Georgian winemaking family, who spent the 2004 vintage traveling at full speed around France absorbing information and techniques on modern winemaking and vine-growing with amazing enthusiasm and stamina. His report, or rather that compiled by his invaluable translator who accompanied him on his travels in Bordeaux, Chablis and Paris, appears verbatim below. It is so enthusiastic that it seemed a shame to edit it and correct some of the spellings. I feel confident that this tour will bear fruit both in terms of overall wine quality in the ex Soviet republic with the oldest viticultural tradition and in improving relations between French wine producers and the burgeoning Moscow wine scene of which Shalva is also part.

 

By coincidence, we awarded a runner-up prize to another impressive candidate with strong Russian links. Alexandra Grigorieva, 29, is a Moscow-based academic  who had already impressed attendees at the Oxford Food Symposium 2003 with her presentation on ‘Our first and sweetest nurture, dreaming of food in Ancient Greek comedy and Russian Folktales’. We donated £1,000 towards her aim of tracing the modern fate of the regional recipes of Curnowski in France and/or Ada Boni in Italy. See her report below on her Italian trip.

Those of us concerned with this London-based charity, established in 1996 in memory of a pioneer importer of New World wines into the UK, are now seeking applications for the 2005 award from anyone who can convince us that they will spend their travel bursary for the greater good of the worlds of food and/or drink. Closing date for applications is the end of March 2005.

 

For more details and an application form, visit the new www.geoffreyrobertsaward.com website or apply to Mrs Venetia Lebus, Hon Sec Geoffrey Roberts Trust, 103 Streathbourne Road, London SW 17 8RA.

 

Shalva Khetsuriani’s report:

 

Dear Jancis,

My journey in France is ended. I’ve visited more than 20 chateaux in Saint-Julienne, Margo, Poiance, Central Medoca, Pessaca, Sauterne, Saint-Emilio, Pomerole, and Shabli. They are: Mouton, Canon, Franc Mayne, Gaffeliere, Canon La Gaffeliere, Gazin, Barrejats, Bernard Defaix, Smith Haut Lafit, Branaire, Marquis de Terme, Palmer, Cantemerle, La Lagune, Lascombe, Rauzan Segla, Conselliante, Climens, Fargues, Batailley, Pichon Longville Comtes Lalande, Lynch Bages, Beychevelle, Leoville Langoa Barton, Pontet Canet. I have visited barrel-making manufacture and arranged some contacts. The visit in the main part of the chateaus was not only the visit for wine-testing but also for contacting with owners, technical directors and oenologists. I met people such are Jan-Michel Kaz, Patrick Maroteaux, Alfred Tesseron, Lur Salus, Phillipr Blanc, Madam Laland, Caroline Frey, Daniel Cathiard, Cyril Forget,  Stephan von Neipperg, Anthony Barton, John Kolasa, Phillipe Dambrine, Mireille Daret and many others. I worked out some list of the questions in advance, for to make intercourse between me and these people more useful and effective. I was interested in terruars, viticulture, vinification, cuvee and barrels, technical characteristics of wine, organizing the manufacture, promotion and commerce. Then followed invariable question: “in your opinion, is there something else, interesting for me, I haven’t asked yet?” I fill up more than 100 sheets of paper, 10 video cassettes, and more than 600 photos. One may say that my trip was as strained as a Marathon race. I saw with my own eyes there crop, vinification, the produce of high-quality wines of successful farms. I was transmitting (in real-time operation mode) many technical peculiarities and specific methods to my technical director in Georgia (where crop has just begun). Some of methods were really interesting and new for us. The maceration was very interesting, witch we have leaded in several variants. The trip began in chateaux Branaire Ducru and big amount of useful information I found exactly there. Visiting other chateaus, I already had opportunity to observe different variations of the same methods (witch was especially interesting). Here are trying to produce Malolactical fermentation (it’s just several years we’ve begun to produce it – it’s only 3-4 years that one began to control it in Georgia, before it was proceeding spontaneous) without any use of bacteria. There are many interesting things that I can’t write in one letter. The visit in Chateau Branaire turned out to be very useful in technical use for me. There I had opportunity to have intimate contact for several days with technical director Ms. Vido, meter Charis, director of vineyards and of cause with Patrick Maroto himself. He offered me to stay at his place in his beautiful chateaux Branaire, where we spent almost a week. I as well as my interpreter was impressed with his hospitality. He, his family and all his staff were very kind to us. I had very interesting and fruitful contacts with gentleman John Kolasa, Phillipe Blanc, Alfred Tesseron, Phillipe Dambrine, Mireille Daret as well. They are the people who were telling me many useful things about some kind of technologies in wine and in vineyard. I’m very pleased because I took with me interpreter from Georgia, who has fluent knowledge of French (many took him as a Parisian). That allowed to get the maximum effect from the trip. I have heard much about the French hospitality but met it first. We were invited and guested in chateaux Branaire, La Lagune, Canon, Bernard Defaix. There were unforgettable days as for cognition of useful information to me as well as for warm relations with very interesting and comprehensively developed people. Especially we made friends with the Maroteaux family. They made much efforts and spent a lot time to make your journey pleasant. We tested splendid wines from Branaire of several ages (I think that they are a bit underestimated), joined to the tasty and captivating French kitchen in chateaux itself as well as in several restaurants of Medoc, where we were kindly invited by Patrick.. We spent 2 unforgettable days in the most beautiful appointments of chateaux La Lagune as well, with warm intercourse with young mistress Caroline Frey. It was one of the most ultra-modern Chais I have seen. I had honor to meet her parents who are making serious investments for the future of La Lagune. Also we spent couple of days in chateaux Canon, in pictorial Sent-Emilio and had lucky opportunity to talk with one of the most successful and advanced wine-maker in Bordeaux – to Mr. John Kolasa. In spite of being busy (at that time he was mainly in Rauzan-Segla), he made us honor and found out some time to have a close talk and I took interview for my magazine. And finally warm, almost friendly relations with my coevals (managing father’s farm Bernard Defaix) - with brothers Defaix and with Helen Jaeger-Defaix. They described manufacture of Chablis to me in details. That was especially interesting for Georgia, where production of the white dry wine is very big.

Also this trip turned very effective because all, whom I associated with , had a big interest in Georgia. Before meetings many of them searched for some information about Georgia in the internet. Here I want to especially mark your and Mr. Hugh Jonson’s role. I mean it were you, who told all the wine world that vine “born” and began it’s “world trip” on the territory of modern Georgia, and that there are many interesting ancient sorts of vine in our country now. This information was first I heard in conversations with my interlocutors. Also almost all of them watched the TV program about new Foreign Secretary  in Georgia – Salome Zurabishvilli – citizen of France who worked as a French ambassador in Georgia. I was very pleased to see their knowledge about my country. Also I was pleased to see an interest of Bordeaux winemakers in Georgian winemaking and my family’s production in particular. I want to tell you (I don’t advertise this information for a while) that some Bordeaux winemakers are going to come to my place in Georgia next year, and think about possibility of joint Georgian winemaking with Hetsuriani. I clearly remember your words – to avoid copying of French or other international wines. Me and my new French friends understand it and if we’ll begin joint winemaking it would be a Georgian wine of high quality. Of course you’ll be a “godmother” of this project. I don’t want to act in advance, but if this idea will come true – French participation would be very useful. French intellectual and financial investments on one side and Georgian terruars, ancient national traditions, interesting sorts, giant market (it’s about Russia, where Georgian wines are very popular) on the other side could lead to success. But it is possible that agreements won’t take place. In this case me and my family are going  to follow the way of using modern western experience  in winemaking, wine marketing , investments in productions and using all positive resources Georgia owns.

Appearance of this possibility and expected arrival of French guests I count as a second important result of my trip. And the third , also very interesting result is a meeting with Mr. Rene Renou. It took place in Paris in the office of INAO. It was organized by Mr. Patrick Maroteaux. Mr. Renou told me about the activity of INAO, its role in French agriculture , aims, program , structure etc. He also agreed to take part on creating analogical structure and apelasions in Georgia. I’m going to discuss this with Minister of Agriculture when I’ll arrive to Georgia. I think that this work is very important for the future of Georgian winemaking. I will be glad to take part in this historical for Georgian winemaking process. We decided to begin information exchange and prepare his visit next year.

The result of my trip in two words – it was successful. Now my family and me work much harder. I want express you, madam Lebus [Honorary Secretary of the Geoffrey Roberts Trust] and all the jury for this trip. It will certainly influence on my production and not only on it…

Though the program finished I would be glad to continue contacting with you in future. If you are interested in it I could tell you about all interesting that happens. I will gladly help you in your work about the winemaking in old USSR countries. Concerning Georgia – it crosses with my teaching in Moscow schools “Entoria” and “Le Sommelier” where I teach Georgian winemaking. Concerning other countries – I’ll think whom could you contact with for the most objective and adequate information. In Russia, Crimea and Moldova there are good news now. We regularly try new types of wines in this countries and I must tell that they much better from time to time.

Sincerely yours,

Shalva

 

Alexandra Grigorieva’s report:

 

A very happy New Year to you and all the members of the comittee! I just want to say  THANK YOU!!!!!! for the wonderful time of gastronomic research I had in Italy thanks to the 2004 award - a wonderful voyage and plenty of discoveries such as pig's blood custard (Calabria's speciality), eggplants with chocolate sauce (Campania) and so on. This is my plan for broadcastingthe results in 2005:

1. writing a series of articles on regional Italian cookery in Chef
magazine (professional edition for Russian cooks)
2
. delivering a paper on authenticity in describing regional cuisine and Ada Boni's book at 2005 Oxford Food Symposium (at least if I find the funds for the trip or perhaps I'll offer an article on the same theme to Petits Propos Culinaires
)
3. and finally preparing the materials for the Russian book on regional
Italian cooking and regional Italian wines  (I'll be writing the cooking part) - thanks to the award I've landed a modest but nonetheless precious-for-
me contract with a future publisher!

Of course the Geoffrey Roberts Award will be mentioned every time and I will still continue working on my Latin culinary dictionary.


There are also some new exciting opportunities surfacing at the moment but as they are as yet unsure I won't mention them now.

I'll send in some press cuttings as soon as I have them
.

All the best
,
yours forever grateful
,
Alexandra Grigorieva

 

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