In Georgia making homemade wine and spirits is a big deal. I've been told that serving store bought wine to guests is frowned upon. Even people living in apartments will have grape vines surrounding their place so that they can harvest the grapes to make their qkhvino. My family is no exception to this. However, considering the size of the operation, we have to buy our own grapes.
Living in Georgia has been a continual education to drinking and alcohol. Never having touched alcohol and years of living in Utah makes me pretty ignorant of all thing alcohol related. Also, this is the first time I've been around people when they are drunk. Sure, my friends in Utah would drink, but not to the point they were acting ridiculous and making foolish and/or dangerous choices. (I think they drank less because I was there). Many of the Americans here are taking it to the extreme. It bothers me a lot. After some recent events, I really do not want to be around the other Americans when they have been drinking. It can be really embarrassing.
The Host Family Winery
The winery began operating about a month ago. One day I noticed about a dozen 55 gallon barrels arrive in the garage. At first I thought maybe that is what we have to store water in for the winter, which horrified me. The prospect of having no water for the winter was unrealistic I thought. Then I thought, "Perhaps it is paint" as I saw one of the host cousins mixing something. This was possible due to the fact that one of the houses is still under construction. No. The barrels were where the grapes were fermenting for the wine. For quite some time every evening host cousin Zura and host dad Jemal were in the garage crushing grapes and doing what needs to be done to make wine.
Yesterday I saw the results of the dozen barrels of wine. My host family has at least 50 20-liter jugs of wine in storage. Not being a drinker, I'm not sure how much wine comes in a bottle, maybe 500 mL or 16 ounces. (And I worked in a liquor store, albeit it was in Utah). Needless to say, we have a lot of wine for drinking made from 3 varieties of grapes. All this wine is for just two families.
The Host Family Distillery
Yesterday I arrived home to a contraption set up in the driveway. At first I could not tell what was going on. There was a bunch of hoses, a couple of metal things, a lot of water, and an awful smell. I could not contain my curiosity. Being as naive as I am about alcohol, I asked my host dad, "Qkhvino?" "Ara...chacha," he responded.
Chacha is Georgian moonshine, a very potent, high proof vodka. (I'd like to know how high, but I doubt I could convey that question). Many of my friends will not go near it anymore, as it is that potent. For the past two days another host cousin has been dutifully tending the chacha maker. I watch, as it is interesting, but soon the smell gets to me. It is a long process for which the family will only get 40 liters of chacha. But that is still a huge amount of alcohol.
None of this is regulated like it would be in the United States. People here do not have to worry about the ATF coming after them or being in a dry county. I wonder if Georgians have ever heard of Prohibition in the United States. If so, I wonder how they would respond.
The irony of the Host Family Winery and Distillery is that my host family is Muslim. The Koran does not exactly promote alcohol consumption.
(More pics and a video can be found on my Facebook).