The Old Gas Station


For anyone who (rightly) doesn’t bother following my social media, I’m currently “in the field” researching a new wine book for Georgia which was made possible by being selected as this year’s winner of the Geoffrey Roberts Award. Self-pimpery aside, for the last month or so, I’ve been reminded as to why I can, at most, do one book a year. The physical toll of researching one of these is just exhausting and as I wind down this phase of the research today, I’m reminded as to the core issue of my strife: finding shit.

I have hired a local research assistant as I don’t speak Georgian or Russian and also, I don’t know how to push people into getting meetings here like I can in Spain. This has helped a great deal but it doesn’t solve the problem of the shit finding though as there is no comprehensive map of Georgian wineries. There just isn’t, which is one of a myriad of reasons why this book needed doing.

Due to this lack of data, shit finding goes as such: roll in to the village, call the winery owner for directions, have the directions fail 70% of the time, ask one group of locals where it is, drive further down the road, ask another group, repeat until asking a final person who looks at you dumbfounded and says, “Um, it’s here.”

The obvious lynchpin to all of this is that the initial directions of the owner fail and I’m reminded of a singular instance when driving through one of the larger villages in the Kakheti Region called, Gurjaani (decent café at the roundabout to get coffee and a fresh khachapuri for 3GEL.) Upon arriving in Gurjaani and after a much needed shock of caffeine, the owner simply said, “Turn right at the old gas station.” There are in theory not too many problems with this. “Right” is not subjective and “gas station” neither. The real issue comes in the “old” part.

What is an “old” gas station to you? When the image passes through my mind’s eye, I see the photo above. Maybe you see the same if you’re an American. If you’re not then maybe “old” is just “older” than the gas station up the road. Maybe “old” is six months. Maybe it’s six years. Or maybe “old” means that there is actually a ruin which was previously a gas station but was bombed in 2008 Russo-Georgian War and that you only know was a gas station if you lived in the village.

In the end, it turned out that once we figured out which “old” station this was, what I saw was a new station with 95 octane at 1.69GEL which is 0.10GEL cheaper than the general going rate. I filled up and we asked the attendant where the winery was. He pointed vaguely down the road at what seemed to me more like in the direction of some old men sitting under the shade of a plane tree, waiting to have a discussion with my assistant in Georgian as to whether we were looking for the “old” cellar.

Georgia is an adventure. You should try it if you get the chance.

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