The oldest archaeological remains of viticulture are found in Georgia and date from 8000 years ago. The Georgians still apply the same prehistoric technique of wine production. This technique is called the Kakhetic Qvevri technique and is recognized as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Qvevri (Georgian: ქვევრი [kʰvɛvri]) are large earthenware jugs, in which traditional Georgian wine fermentes and ages. Qvevri vary in size from 20 l to as much as 10,000 l, 800 l is common. The Qvevri are placed underground, so the Georgians could keep their precious wine hidden in wartime. It are the remains of Qvevri and grape seeds from the 6th millennium BC. archaeologists have dug up.
Georgian winemakers harvest their grapes manually. They crush the grapes, than the juice, skin, seeds and stalks go into the Qvevri. Now the fermentation starts, which takes approximately two weeks. During that process, the contents of the Qvevri are stirred manually three to five times a day. Because Georgian grapes are of high quality, it is not necessary to add extra yeast for fermentation.
After fermentation, the wine remains in the Qvevri for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of one year. It depends on the type of wine the vintner wants to make. Now the peels, seeds and stalks sink to the pointed bottom of the Qvevri. The Qvevri gives white wine its typical orange or amber color. After the right time in the Qvevri, the wine is bottled or transferred to oak barrels for further aging.
The Georgian winemakers are very dedicated to the traditional and natural Qvevri technique. They invest a lot to keep this method alive. In addition, they also use unique, typically Georgian grapes for their wine. There are more than 500 varieties of which 38, such as the Saperavi, Kisi and Mtsvane, are used in commercial wine production.
The production of Qvevri wine is limited, it is only 5% of the entire Georgian wine production.
Qvevri wine is of high quality and tastes very different from the modern produced (European) wine.
Production of Qvevri's
The best Georgian Qvevri maker, Zurab Karaulashvili tells about producing Qvevri's.
To make a Qvevri you have to take care of a lot of things: choose the right soil, carefully build the Qvevvri and control the correct humidity during the drying process. Then the Qvevri can be baked, which takes one week and requires a constant temperature rise. Finally, the Qvevri will be further finished.
Placing the Qvevri in the ground is also important. You have to find the right place for the Qvevri, dig the hole, lay the foundation and place the Qvevri.
Qvevri's are made from brown-yellow clay found in mountain or hilly areas where the mineral water is pure and drinkable. Vardisubani is such an area, the clay soil is contains a lot of calcium and also a little gold and other nobel metals. Qvevri's of calcium-rich clay do not crack and corrode and they never have a musty smell. The smell of the Qvevri is important because it influences the taste of the wine. In addition, the calcium makes the Qvevri antiseptic, which degrades the bacteria present in the wine.
From the inside, the Qvevri is finished with beeswax, which is cooked at 120-130 ° C. The boiling temperature is important, if the wax should be cooked at a higher or lower temperature, the wine from the qvevri is no longer suitable for consumption.
The production of Qvevri wine is a complex and highly traditional process.