With the first chill of winter, we know the viticulture-winemaking harvest season is already over in most of Georgia’s regions. It is a time when most winemakers start preparing for the long period of Chacha distillation, which lasts until spring. April and May are the latest months for Chacha distillation, made with the leftovers of what is available at the end of the six-month period of wine preparation.
Chacha is a traditional Georgian grape brandy which has been produced and consumed for centuries. Like its Italian shelf-mate Grappa, and other similar alcohol products, it is made from the pomace (in Georgian: chacha) left after preparing wines.
With a centuries-long history, tradition and popularity, Chacha is one of those trademarks that the Georgian culture is proud of, just like Georgian cuisine with its Khachapuri, Khinkali, Churchkhela, Satsivi, and more.
There are different rituals and rules for Chacha distillation, varying according to the region. Interestingly, despite the DIY spirit distillation facilities, winemaking villagers are still able to prepare quite sophisticated Chacha products. However, not all are able to get the best results and so they often band together and elect a single “distiller” who they supply with the necessary firewood and pay by giving some amount of the final product. The process of distillation is usually accompanied by a special feast “Supra,” traditional toasts and lots of rowdy fun. Such public-rural meetings continue for a few days and sometimes even turn into a beautiful ethnographical festivals.
Tourist agents are only just beginning to appreciate the potential the Chacha distillation process has. Just a handful of wine companies currently offer tourists an opportunity to participate in the traditional distillation events (Twins Old Cellar in Napareuli, Shumi in Tsinandali, to name two).
While almost all respected wine companies already offer Chacha to their consumers, high-quality bottled Chacha is still available only in a number of specialty wine shops and large supermarkets. Local restaurants mostly operate through cartel deals, therefore only one or two Chacha varieties can be ordered alongside the Russian-Ukrainian-Georgian wheat vodkas from the menu, and the price can be excessive.
I would recommend trying Chacha produced by the Pheasant's Tears brand and Askaneli Brothers- both will warm you well this upcoming winter season!
By Aleko Tskitishvili