Dinner in Tbilisi

What a fun place this can be.

Issues with the airport notwithstanding, my last day in Tbilisi was brilliant. Once again, it was punctuated with insight and conversation, ideas and debate; it is a really interesting place.

Of all places, I found myself at the Christmas party of AmCham, the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. Far from being the stuffy event that one might have imagined, it once again epitomised the go-ahead attitude of many of their ranks, and I loved it.

I stayed until almost the end, intoxicated (not with the admirable Georgian wine on offer,) but with one of the best ideas that I have come across in a long, long time. Needless to say, I won’t say anything now, but watch this space.

Dinner followed, and a discussion of Georgia, from, it has to be admitted, an expat perspective that was particularly voluble. It was agreed that it is a country of huge opportunity; this is a bit of a conversation deadener in a way because to agree inclines one to emigration (to Georgia) or excuses of why one would not, and disagreement is a touch impolite, and not actually true.

One participant, a fascinating woman involved with the financing of ecological advancements in commercial environments, yes, really, people do this for a living, put it succinctly. “We come to The East because of the intellectual challenge, and the opportunity to “do something””.

I completely understand. Given the appropriate opportunity and circumstance, I would head east myself. There are opportunities, pitfalls, difficulties and rewards in eventually equal or balanced measure. These are folks who are interested in more that eventual pension entitlements, driven by need perhaps, but nevertheless driven. Opportunities for small businesses, for large enterprises abound, and all the time a riding on the frisson of the underlying and motivating risk.

Like the wine industry.

Not my best segway, I will admit, but dinner conversation was lubricated by some interesting, but not overwhelming, wine; Georgian, of course.

The Georgian wine industry has a parallel in Canada. In the 1980s, the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States left the Canadian wine industry in a terrible state. Producing, as Canada used to, pretty toxic stuff by the tankerful, it was realised that in the Dreadful Wine Market (one not to be sneezed at apparently, by volume at least), one could not out-underperform the Americans. Competing with the oceans of Thunderbird, or wine of a similar appellation, was out of the reach of Canadian producers, so they ripped up the vines.

The new plants, now some twenty years on, produce some rather wonderful wines, and so to Georgia. Having lost their market for bulk, weapons-grade red when the Russians closed the border and thus the market of their plentiful and indiscriminate boozers, the Georgian wine industry had a stark choice.

Improve, or die on the vine.

And, I have to say, they improved. Interestingly, the wine that I can drink today, in fact the wine that is within seven inches of my left hand (a Mukuzani from Marani) is eminently drinkable. A child’s portion of the essence of Georgia would not go amiss in any company. Distribution is an issue, but one that will be sorted in due course, I hope. Truly, good Georgian wines are superb, and deserve their place among the wine lists of the world.

Their very fine wines, one of which I have one in my suitcase, are actually truly remarkable; hence my remarks. And once I drink it, I shall remark upon it further.

And so we go on; it is now midnight, the clock is set for 0300 the flight for 0455 and a long day of travel via Munich, Zurich and Montreal before I finally get home to Winnipeg.