When looking at the history of winemaking it comes to a surprise that this ancient industry has for centuries been heavily dominated by men. Whether because in the East the women’s involvement in alcohol production was believed to be dangerous to the quality of alcohol, or in the West, where in the Medieval Ages women abandoned alcohol brewing in order to escape witchery accusations, the matter stays the same — female wine-makers and brewers often faced prejudice from their communities and struggled to succeed in the industry. However, the times are changing and the recent Georgian wine-tasting event organised by Mako Abashidze, a Georgian London-based businesswoman and wine merchant, has proven that women are finally taking over the winemaking business.
The event oriented at displaying the 20 pioneering Georgina women-winemakers and was attended by a variety of international guests. Held at the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in Mayfair on May 24, this wine-tasting event was not just an opportunity to enjoy a wide choice of the famous Georgian wine, known for its rich flavour profiles and ancient production techniques, but also offered a chance to meet and talk to the winemakers, which made it particularly special. Their enthusiasm and dedication to their craft were evident as they engaged with guests, sharing their knowledge, stories, and personal experiences. It was a truly immersive experience, allowing attendees to connect not just with the wines but also with the incredible women who brought them to life.
The organiser, Mako Abashidze, gave a small speech, in which she welcomed the guests and thanked the winemakers for their work. Mako stressed the importance of this event in transforming the Georgian and the world-wide winemaking industry with the recognition and inclusivity of women, and how “this is a very big move, because despite the industry still being largely dominated by men we all have been able to come and meet these 20 female incredible winemakers and drink this beautiful and elegant wine made by women”. Mako’s contribution to this incredible change must not be overlooked, as she is directly involved in making it possible. Her wine store 80-20 Shops, located in Shoreditch, has become the London home of all the wines presented at the event, as well as many other Georgian wines. The name comes from Mako’s aim to help introducing new wines and winemakers to the market: 80% of the wine that Mako offers comes from Georgia, while the other 20% come from a list of countries that are not yet famous for their wines. At the end of her speech, Mako wished everyone present to have a great time and to enjoy the wines, and concluded with a fierce Georgian equivalent of “Cheers!” — “Gaumarjos!”
Throughout the evening, the guests had the opportunity to taste a range of wines, from elegant and crisp whites to bold and robust reds, and the famous ambers. The wines showcased the unique flavours and characteristics that are emblematic of Georgian winemaking traditions. Unlike most Old Wines, Georgians do not use oak barrels to ferment, store or age their wines, developing their own unique method. All wines offered at the event were traditionally skin-fermented without yeast and chemicals in qvevris, clay egg-shaped pots. Guests were encouraged to explore the nuances of each wine, guided by the winemakers’ expertise, and to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry involved in producing these exceptional bottles. Ranging from fruity and citrusy notes to floral and herbal flavours, the large variety of wines produced by those women winemakers left no guest behind, showing the depths of true Georgian hospitality.
In addition to the wines themselves, the event incorporated elements of Georgian culture, adding a delightful touch to the overall experience. A couple of Georgian guests performed traditional Georgian Polyphonic singing, that transported the attendees on the other side of the continent to the enchanting lands of Sakartvelo.
Overall, this wine-tasting event featuring Georgian women winemakers was an outstanding celebration of the country’s winemaking heritage and the talent of its female industry pioneers. It provided a platform for attendees to discover and appreciate the exceptional wines crafted by these talented women while gaining a deeper understanding of Georgian winemaking traditions. The event successfully highlighted the level of recognition of women’s contributions in the wine industry, as well as the shifting stigma surrounding women in alcohol production.