Georgian clay pots

Georgian wine making: clay pots

This man lived around 1800s in Kakheti. Barrel next to him is similar to the ones used today.

Iago Bitarishvili is a master wine producer, who uses the ancient clay vessels that are called qvevri in Georgian. To get the drink matured in the right conditions, these vessels are buried in the ground after they are filled with grapes. Unlike other methods, there are no barrels, wooden vessels, or modern technologies. Bitarishvili adheres to the mentioned system, increasing sales and preserving the amazing taste.
He finds the place to climb in a barrel almost immediately, with ease, because it is not his first experience. It’s his job as well as home craft.
Georgia has been using qvevri wine making technology for more than 8000 years. These vessels look like orange giant clay pots or clay vessels. Their shape is rounded and resembles a dinosaur egg. Natural wax is used for lubrication of the vessel so it could easily be moved underground.
He says the use of this technique gives a special taste and smell to the final product. Every year, raw material is prepared in October, to put in qvevri not only grapes, but also the mulch – peel and seeds. The raw material is brewed and stored for six months minimum in the ground. The last stage is the movement of materials from one big barrel to several smaller ones, where the drink is to be stored for at least 6 months up to bottling.

Huge pitchers resemble ancient amphorae. These are more than 3700 thousand years.

Because the technology with grape skins is used throughout the manufacturing process, it becomes of a golden color with the admixture of natural orange pigment. Mass production peel left exclusively on dark-red varieties of grapes. With such tricks, the drink also gets a special flavor that is very appreciated by foreign customers, in particular:

  • Japanese
  • Americans
  • Europeans

Georgian method and viniculture

Production in Georgia literally comes to naught without the demand of the Russian market, but then a miracle happened: the industry was revived with the help of interest of the international audience. More than five years ago in 2009, 22 million liters were produced and sold, and after five years of the production of this wonderful organic drink has quadrupled.

Many experts, including Alice Feiring, who wrote books on this topic, reported that qvevri caused such a lively interest in the art of Georgian winemaking process. There was a symposium about viniculture to discuss this issue, the future of the production directly in the most popular region in Georgia. Just at this time, all who were engaged in the production of this drink were in the midst of the revival of the tradition of using qvevri.

The main advantage of this Georgian method is explained by scientists that when using qvevri wine maker needs no pouring from one vessel to another and thereby does not interfere with the process of natural fermentation. When using wooden vessels, the human interference violates the natural course of events.

Thus, the temperature remains stable, and the vessel’s special shape allows weeding seeds and making the wine clear. Few people know, but UNESCO has recognized qvevri as a part of the cultural Georgian heritage.

With regard to relations with Russia, in 2013, a ban on the importation was closed after been holding for so long, and now more than half of all wine is now purchased by the Russian Federation as of today.
Despite the fact that now the number of qvevri wine for export is still very small, it gradually becomes larger year to year. According to Irakli Cholobargia, who sells the drink on an international scale, the novelty of this idea is what is called a ‘gold mine’.
Manually Georgians will be able to produce no more than 10,000 bottles of the drink per year, though growing demands of customers. In the future, they may have to use factory labor.

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