Sunsets on Batumi Beach are a majestic sight. Striated with the hues of amber and gold, an image of natural grandeur persists. At length the purpling sky gives way to darkness and the open expanse of sea mile. What are Medea and I doing in the Republic of Georgia’s premier seaside resort? Certainly not to enter a Latin dance romp.
“Oh Grigol,” Medea erupted euphorically. Stop teasing our readers and share with them what is Chacha.”
From our beach cottage, I gazed out at the seemingly endless sea and searched for an explanation. Chacha (pronounced Cha-ka) is a clear strong liquor produced by Georgians for some one thousand years. It is is made from the grape pomace that is left after making wine. So is it grappa. Don’t rush to any conclusions. Then it must be brandy. Once again your conclusion would be incorrect. To most Georgians, Chacha, simply put, is “vine vodka.”
“Many Georgians also believe that Chacha has medicinal properties,” Medea stated matter-of-factly. “My father always says, one glass in the morning, on an empty stomach keeps the doctor away.”
Chuckling under my breath, “All my mother gave me was an apple.”
Medea delicately filled our glasses with a favorite Chacha from the distiller, Marani.
“Gaumarjos!” We toasted each other.
Everything about the appearance of Chacha says vodka. However, on the nose, the delightfully aromatic bouquet is of jammed red fruit and mint. On the palate there is a subtle complexity with a sweet mid-palate. The finish is a silky strawberry. Most appealing is the wonderful smoothness to this spirit that is distilled from Saperavi grapes.
Medea cleared her throat. “I would also like to share with our readers the traditional method of making Chacha.”
Medea went on to explain that after fermentation the pomace and the last fraction on the pressing wine is double steam distilled in the traditional way. At Marani, the resulting Chacha is stored in stainless steel tanks before bottling.
Marani, meaning “small wine cellar,” has an interesting background. Founded in 1915, this renown winery is noted for its ability to combine the best of Georgian tradition with a modern outlook. Beginning in 1997, Marani has added state of the art techniques to enhance, rather than overwhelm Georgia’s unique wine heritage.
“What is our next selection?” I queried.
Medea’s face beamed with excitement. “Something very special.”
“A Chateau Mukhrani,” Medea replied with anticipated pleasure. “Better still, it is a 2007.”
Mukhrani, meaning “embellished with oak trees,” is one of the most beautiful wineries in eastern Georgia. Known for their lush vineyards, Chateau Mukhrani produces some of the region’s finest examples of Chacha. Our 2007 vintage exemplified a hand-crafted and refined elegance. Don’t be fooled by the smoothness of this Chacha, it is very powerful.
“Indeed it is stronger. 43% alcohol,” Medea blushed and giggled to herself. “The first time I tried Chateau Mukhrani, let’s just say I had a bit too much.”
On the nose a host of wonderful jammy fruit aromas permeate the nostrils. On the palate, there is a refined complexity of flavors ranging from vanilla, licorice, and mint, ending in a long silky berry finish.
“Chacha can also be served slightly chilled,” Medea was quick to add. “46-54 degrees Fahrenheit.” She then handed me a glass of slightly chilled Chacha. “I know your palate and opted for 54 degrees.”
Chilling does not change Chacha’s characteristics to any noticeable degree. I concluded that chilling was merely a matter of preference.
“I agree,” Medea flashed a grin. “Chacha is unique unto itself.”
Although Chacha is growing in popularity and is easily found in both the States and Western Europe, there is great news for connoisseurs and world travelers. By the end of summer, Batumi Beach will host a most unique attraction. Construction is nearing conclusion of a 75 foot tall clock tower, complete with observation deck. What makes this minaret styled structure so special? The lofty pinnacle will host a fountain the spurts Georgia’s national spirit. Better still, samples of Chacha will be free.
A broad smile filled my face. “I assure that Eve would appreciate the tower and fall totally in love with the fountain.”
Medea gazed longingly at the emptiness of the beach. “Grigol, I know it’s late, but can we talk a stroll along the beach?”
But that my friends is another story …