Georgia's Traditional Vessels
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, August 6
Georgia is well known for its hospitality – one of the country's traditional characteristics. One example of Georgian hospitality and generosity is the traditional Georgian feast, known as the “Supra” with a fantastic spread of Georgian dishes food together with an array of wines. When we mention Georgian wines, we also think of traditional Georgian vessels for drinking wine. These attractive original vessels can be made of various materials and there are a number of different shapes.
One of the most famous drinking vessels for the traditional Georgian supra is the drinking horn, called Kantsi. It makes toasts special and more memorable especially for foreign visitors. Drinking horns are known to have been used in classical antiquity and have remained in use for ceremonial purposes throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period in some parts of Europe, notably in Germanic Europe as well as in the Caucasus. In particular drinking horns have remained an important accessory in the culture of ritual toasting in Georgia. Drinking vessels made from glass, ceramics or metal styled in the shape of drinking horns were also used in ancient Greece and were known as the rhyton. A funny thing about the Viking sense of humour is that if you don't have a stand or somebody hands you a drinking horn full of mead you are not supposed to put it down anywhere - so you have to drink it! So, if you are a foreign guest and a Georgian host decides and demands Kantsi to bless you, it means that he is very happy with your visit and this act can be considered as the host showing his respect towards you. In general, toasts with Kantsi are drunk in Georgian weddings, to express more respect and wish happy marriage to newly married couple.
While talking about Georgian traditional vessels we should not forget Georgian clay bowls and jugs. Clay, in general and the vessels made from it have different and extremely important features. The discovery of pottery clay was followed by the invention of the potter's wheel and a pottery furnace –where the pottery was baked with hot gases liberated during the combustion of fuel. For a long time in Georgian wine-making special crocks - kvevri were used. Wines “born” in these crocks are distinguished by the extraordinary richness of flavours and useful microelements.
To treat wine in present-day wine-making special bentonite clay is used. Bentonites are fine-porous clays consisting mainly of minerals and have a high cohesive ability, absorption and catalytic activity. They accelerate the clarification of must and wine materials and stabilize wine against protein dimness. Bentonite increases the biological stability of wines due to absorption of microorganisms (yeasts, bacteria). The Bentonite clays of Georgia are regarded to be some of the best throughout the world.
The exact size of particles is the most important property of clay on which its curative effects are based. With such a small size each clay particle has an enormous absorption surface – from 80 to 800 square meters per gram clay, depending on the rock from which clay was formed. On this large surface area different physical and chemical processes take place continuously. They form the basis of properties useful for man. Clay can extract toxins and residues from organisms even affecting tissues and organs far from the digestive system.
As for shapes, there are different ones. Small clay jugs are called Chinchilas, sometimes there are some painting on them, like vine or the names of owners. There are cases when Georgians drink wine directly from Chinchilas and they call such toasts special. if Georgians wants to show special warmth and benevolence towards one another and guests they suggest so called Vakhtanguri stile of drinking, when arm in arm they drink the toast.
So traditional vessels used in Georgia should not be considered as simply vessels, they also have some specific curable features in addition to being symbolic and decorative.