8000 years of wine making still alive with you
Qvevri (Georgian: ქვევრი) also known as Churi (ჭური) in Western Georgia) is a lemon shaped clay vessel that is buried underground and used for the fermentation of traditional Georgian wine. The oldest pottery sample for Qvevri was found during archeological excavations in Georgian region of Qvemo Qartli at the village Imir and dates back to VI century bc. BBC National Geographic
Throughout the centuries Qvevri was also used for the storage of grain and other crops but today it only has a wine fermentation function. It has become an essential part of Georgian wine making. The vessel is even reflected in one of Georgian movies like “Qvevri”
Qvevri Making now
The process of Qvevri clay making is very important. The mass of material should be stirred many times in order to let water penetrate evenly at all of its parts. After producing the quality clay material the master starts to build it on a special lathe-? piece by piece. Qvevri should have a shape of an egg/lemon and its bottom should be pointy. Because of this unique shape it is not built in one day or short period of time. There are levels that need to be dried out and only then is it possible to add another layer. After finishing the building process it is brought to a special oven that heats the structure and finalizes its production. Qvevri is made and produced only in Georgia. Its price depends on litrage and quality. The average price for one liter is about 10$ and the Qvevris can vary from 100 liters to 2000.
The traditional way of making “Qvevri” is essential but our generation tried to keep up with contemporary building techniques. The startup QvevriXYZ is applying modern technologies to Georgia’s centuries-old traditions of wine making. They made the first Qvevri in 3d printer.
From vineyards to Qvevri
Most of the Georgian wine is produced at eastern part of Georgia called Kakheti. One of the main characteristics of Georgian traditional Qvevri wine is that it is rich with tannin in comparison with European/Conventional technology made. This means that it has unique taste and different aroma, sometimes tougher to drink. Tannin is a naturally made chemical material that gives the wine a taste of dryness. It plays a major role in wine taste, since it makes the liquid heavier. This is why the most popular dishes in Georgia are with meat since with a heavy wine one needs heavy dishes.
In October we have a Georgian local October fest but instead of beer like they do in Germany, we use wine. The festival in Georgian is called Rtveli (რთველი) and it is about harvesting the grape crops from the vineyards, pressing them and pouring it to Qvevri vessels where the natural chemical process will start for wine making. The preparation for this process is tough since the winemakers should clean out all of their Qvevri very thoroughly. It should be perfectly clean because even a tiny piece of dirt can spoil the whole wine. The Qvevri are large, ranging from 100 liters to 1000. After the cleaning process is finished and Qvevri are ready to take some wine, the harvesting process starts and winemakers collect tons of grapes. Aftermath these grapes are put in to a traditional pressing vessel, called Satsnakheli (საწნახელი). The produced juice is poured in Qvevri.
Depending on Georgian geography, climate micro zones, local traditions, grape harvest amount, and the chemical structure of the grape, there are several ways to produce Qvevri wine. The key to making Qvevri wine is grape skin or Chacha (ჭაჭა). With Chacha one can control the level of tannin by keeping longer or shorter (from 10 days to 2 weeks) during the fermentation process. The clay vessel also provides specific chemical reflection resulting in more aromatic and exotic taste. Source1
In 2020 Georgian ember (Qvevri) wine was added to OIV special wine list and became 8th category. This fact strengthens the image of Georgian Qvevri wine worldwide in terms of high standards and international acknowledgement. (See the source links 1, 2 and 3). Georgian wine is successful on various international wine festivals. 13 gold and 1 silver medal was awarded to Georgian wine at Japanese Sakura Awards. The number of competitor countries was 32 that exhibited more than 4000 different wines. 1 gold and 1 silver medals among 32 countries and 220 wine assortments was awarded at 2020 Polish wine festival These facts speak of the improvement of Georgian wine standards and awareness worldwide.
Comparison of Conventional, Qvevri and Biodynamic wine making technologies.
Wine making is a hard complex process where each stage influences and determines the quality of the final product. One might think that it is only pressing the grapes or bottling the wine, but everything starts on earlier stage from ploughing and soil cultivation. On one hand we have a grape variety DNA that has individual sugar-acidity concentration and a potential for opening up particular flavors and tastes, on the other hand we have micro zones, climate conditions, harvesting time and technologies that drive this process in different directions. The Key difference with biodynamic and conventional wine making is the process of grape farming before it is harvested for wine. Below we will review the general steps in every winemaking process and distinguish different technology advantages.
Terroir. All the aspects that influence how a grape is cultivated in the vineyard.
Harvest. How grapes are grown and when they’re picked.
Fermentation. Allowing native yeasts and bacteria to convert sugars to alcohol.
Racking. Removing sediment from the wine (or intentionally leaving it in).
Bottling and aging. Letting the wine develop until it’s ready to drink
Conventional way of wine production uses mass vineyards in particular climate condition areas called micro zones/appellation. The terroir is worked out with different chemical substances, some for protecting the vine from parasites (pesticides for instance) and some for maximizing the crops during the harvest (fertilizers). The time of harvest depends on the grape variety and its ability to produce sugar. During the racking stage one can control the level of alcohol inside wine. The fermentation process goes in tin barrels before it’s ready to be bottled and aged. Each grape has different aging potential, meaning it has a limited amount of time while it reaches its prime.
Organic wines are made from grapes grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. The conventional wine industry has diverse options to manipulate the chemical composition of the wine every above mentioned stages.
In case of biodynamic wine winemaking the techniques should be organic as well. Little or no manipulation of the wine by reverse osmosis, excessive filtration, or flavor additives (such as oak chips). Many organic winemakers also prefer wild yeasts for the fermentation. The concept behind biodynamics is that everything in the universe is interconnected and gives off a resonance or ‘vibe’. The interconnectivity of everything even includes celestial bodies like the moon, planets and stars. Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth and stars. The concept of Biodynamics started in the 1920’s with the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. It is a holistic, homeopathic way of farming, including viticulture. It is the oldest, anti-chemical agricultural movement that predates the creation of organic farming by about twenty years. Source 1
The fertilization process is followed by technology of wine making. In many countries the biodynamic winemaking is also followed by natural ways of producing/keeping wine. In Georgia we have an ancient technology, known as Qvevri technology that can be used for making both, biodynamically and conventionally grown grapes. Since human involvement is only physical and the rest is up to nature to do its work, qvevri technology is perfectly suitable for biodynamic/organic winemaking.
As many Georgian winemakers state, wine is a living organism that is brought up as a child or person, it has its character, mood, emotion that is reflected in final results. The huge advantage of Qvevri wine technology is the fact that its aging friendly vessel, that sometimes prolongs the time of aging potential. The Qvevri vessel ensures the conditions for a wine to stay open up its tastes and flavors during the aging process, furthermore the clay composition adds its own flavor.
In order to connect this information with our products, we’ll describe below what we offer and how our product stands out from the rest. In our current database we have wines made with conventional/european technology. Qvevri wines and Biodynamic organic wines.
- Conventional technology wines mean unique and endemic Georgian grape varieties that stand out throughout the world with its ancient nature and DNA.
- The Qvevri technology wine means that Georgian grapes are farmed in a conventional way but vinified with ancient Qvevri technology method. These products are labeled as DNA edition because the human factor includes the DNA of winemaking.
- The biodynamic or organic wine is the product that is farmed with Rudolph Steiner methodology but the wine is made with conventional technology. The DNA branding here refers to a natural factor that is maintained during the farming of the grapes.
- The final and most special product is Biodynamic/Organic Qvevri wine. In this case the conventional phase is absent and wine is both farmed and made in an organic biodynamic way. This means that on every stage from ground cultivation till the moment you pour the wine in glass the force of nature stays untouched in your wine. The both DNA branding elements are present that makes our product twice as special.
We hope this was a substantial introduction about Georgian wine and our product. Join us in Georgia on our wine tours for more!