Red Corner: Georgian Toastmasters

Day three of Georgian Wine posts.

One can’t speak about Georgian wines without a brief word about the Tamada. If you are ever fortunate enough to travel to (former Soviet) Georgia, and are lucky enough to be invited into someone’s home for dinner and drinks (a surprisingly common affair) than you need to know a few things about the Tamada.

The Tamada, is basically the toastmaster. You see, Georgians take their drinking very seriously and their toasts even more so. Over the course of thousands of years of drinking, the Georgian toast has evolved into a very formal affair with strict rules and etiquette. To be ignorant of such etiquette is to insult your host.

For example, only the tamada is allowed to make toasts and no one else can do so until he gives permission. You can expect most tamadas to make seven or eight toasts to such as time-honored themes as women, family, love, peace, friends, departed relatives, parents and women. In some parts of Georgia, this list is extended to include the country’s most famous son, Joseph Stalin. If things are going really well, the tamada may even bring out a hollowed goat horn to drink out of for the most honored guest-you!

There are countless other rules and formalities to be aware of-all of which become blurry and easily forgotten towards the end of the evening. Indeed, there is enough going on here that an entire dissertation can be written about the rich culture of the Georgian toasts. Fortunately for you, someone has done so. I’m glad I had read the whole thing before drinking with the two old coots featured in the photo above. Otherwise I may have spat out my wine when the second toast of the night was to Stalin.