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Good work, sister: The rise of women wine makers in Georgia

Photograph by Sarah May Grunwald, Sourse: www.tastingrome.blogspot.com

by Sarah May Grunwald

Special thanks to Erica Firpo for helping me with the title

Marina and Tea of Mandili presenting their wine at Vignaioli Naturali a Roma 2015 an annual natural wine fair in Rome

Last spring I met Georgia's first female owned wine company and have had the privilege of following them for an entire year, from vineyard to qvevri, to bottling. In Georgia, men have traditionally been in control of the 8,000 year old qvevri wine making process, so these women, along with another young woman named Mariam Iosebidze who started her own wine company in 2014, are at the forefront of a change in culture and attitudes towards women in Georgia. I have interviewed these women and tasted their wine and I would like to share their stories over the next few months. For now, a short introduction to the First Ladies of Georgian wine; Marina Kurtanidze and Tea Melanashvili of Mandili.

To preface, Tea is my very good friend, she is simply someone I adore, and Marina is a dear friend as well who is a force to be reckoned with. Besides friendship, they have been a big part of my shift in thinking about how women in the west view women in other parts of the world. In short, we believe that we have it better and that those “other” women are not as liberated.  Before I went to Georgia, I was told that it was an extremely sexist country where women were not treated well and that, in fact, I should avoid going there. So during my first trip, I made a few cultural faux pas having this attitude in the back of my head. I met Tea at Vino Underground, a wine bar in Tbilisi that focuses on natural wines, and learned that she was one of Georgia's first female wine makers. I was intrigued. How could it be possible in this country? We tasted her wine, and I was hooked. Not only was I impressed with Tea for making strides in the wine world, I was impressed with her wine, Mandili.

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May 2023