Qvevri wine phenomenon and its unique features
Many years ago, Georgian wineries started using a unique wine making technology called qvevri (the correct spelling is still argued). Most likely the exact spelling will be approved only when UNESCO will finally place this method of winemaking on its list of cultural heritage. At the moment, there are two options on how to call the wine making technology in clay barrels: with “k” or “q”. We rightly believe in the latter option, so going forward we will use “Qvevri” as the name of this art of winemaking based on ancient Georgian traditions. Another interesting fact: the first mention of this process was by the ancient Greeks in the 8th century BC.
What is the meaning of the term?
In contrast to conventional wisdom, the word “qvevri” does not mean the same as the ancient Greek amphora, in which the best wines were made. Amphorae were used to store the drinks and other products, while qvevri is a vessel, in which wine is made: big crock was buried in the ground up to its neck. The production was happening not only in Georgia but also in other southern countries, which are famous for the art of winemaking: Italy, Spain and Portugal. Now the most promising region for the continuation of the qvevri traditions is Georgia.
The specifics of the wine production and its difference from the wooden or metal drums, which are often used to make wine in the USA and other countries, is that almost nothing is used except of the clay. Instead of the expected glaze, beeswax is used, which leaves no flavor and does not alter the taste of wine.
How common is this method and who practices it?
Not so long ago qvevri has finally began to appear on the international level, and appeared in the US as well. In particular, in the range of drinks available for purchase in Florida. We hope that soon this terrific wine will be possible to try in Florida wine shops at any time. At this point, we can name at most five really knowledgeable Georgian winemakers, each one is a producer of wine precisely according to the qvevri technology. The saddest thing is that these people do not have the opportunity to produce their wine in sufficient quantities due to financial constraints. That is why we hope that UNESCO will help us to finance producers, raising the level of their production to a new level.
What is a vessel for wine?
It is a huge clay drum with a narrow neck, which may have a volume of a 100 up to 4000 liters. But in the entire history of wine-making, vessels were discovered with volume from 8,000 to 10,000 liters! What determines the size that will be used? If we talk about the process of fermentation, it is better to use a small capacity container. Large qvevris are often used for the storage of wine, because they are better at maintaining the required cooler temperature and the wine continues to be fermented according to all the rules. Since the process of fermentation in a barrel lasts up to a month, it needs to be monitored. The stages of preparation of the wine includes constant layer updates, removal of raw materials (it includes not only berries, but the grape shoots and stems), and subsequent pouring wine into another container for storage or directly into the bottle. Also, the neck of the container is sealed with a heavy stone stopper, so very little oxygen gets into the fermentation process of the future wine. There is nothing else added, no sugar, no salt, no water. As for location, the containers are buried in the ground, ideally next to the vineyard.
Care after ancient vessels
Since the clay is a porous material, no manufacturer uses modern cleaning solutions. As has become a tradition since ancient times, the main cleaning agent is water. It leaves no aftertaste and washes all the dirt and bacteria. In addition to water, a brush of wood bark and limestone powder may be used, which heats the inside wall of qvevri and disinfects it. Surprisingly, some qvevri that we have found still in use are more than two hundred years old! These vessels have been used for many years and have no shelf life.
Use of qvevri wine
It is the most natural method of all that have survived to our time. Human involvement in the process of making wine is minimal: Mother Nature does everything for the manufacturer. Due to the special shape of the vessel, as well as the use of raw materials, the wine turns out not only to be delicious, but also good for the health, as it contains anthocyanin.
This wine, the raw material for which is growing on the ground, and then is buried in it in an ideal temperature throughout the time of manufacture. Now, to the delight of many connoisseurs, this wine is finally available outside the beautiful Georgia! Once the veil of secrecy over qvevri was slightly opened, many interested wine enthusiasts from the United States showed up not just to buy the wine and try it out, but to join the culture and its history, to learn more about the manufacturing process itself. We are pleased to note that the demand for Georgian wine qvevri in the US is breaking all records; that is why we are happy to offer the opportunity to buy it in the original form to fans of this divine drink, which nature has been providing us since the dawn of humanity.