Qvevri wine-making started 8 thousand years ago in Georgia and this tradition is still preserved today. The Georgian traditional method of making Qvevri wine was awarded the status of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Monuments in 2013, which indicates the uniqueness of this method and sends a message to the whole world that wine is an integral part of ancient Georgian culture. This recognition is important for raising the awareness of Qvevri wine and will contribute to the popularization of Georgian wine worldwide.
The Qvevri is a unique clay vessel for making and storing wine. The oldest -type of pottery found in Georgia belongs to the VI-V millennia BC. The shape of the Georgian Qvevri that exists today dates back to the III millennium BC. Before this period, mostly small Qvevris were common, not exceeding 1-1.5 m in height, and had a flat base and a broad abdomen. Egg-shaped Qvevri is currently the most common.
The capacity of the pitcher starts from a few hundred liters and reaches several tons. Kakheti is especially distinguished by large Qvevris, where you can see Qvevris with 6-8 thousand liters of capacity. The most common Qvevri capacity is 1-2-tons.
Qvevri wine generally involves fermenting, vinifying, and aging a certain amount of grape juice with chacha (husks of grapes/grape skin and pips). The first and foremost rule of Qvevri wine-making is to delay the wine in the Qvevri on its chacha both during and after the alcoholic fermentation.
Winemaking technology varies in different parts of Georgia. For example, in Kakheti, the total amount of chacha participates in alcoholic fermentation, and the Imereti way of Qvevri wine-making means adding not a total amount of chacha, but a maximum of one-third, to the grape juice poured into Qvevri.
The grape variety, the duration of alcoholic fermentation, environmental conditions, etc. are important factors for determining the period of delay of the wine on its chacha. On average, red wine can be kept in Qvevri only during the period of alcoholic fermentation, it can be 7-10 days, maximum of 2 weeks. In the case of white grapes, the wine is kept with the chacha until spring. A wine that is kept with the chacha for a long time acquires a dark straw, golden or tea-colored, color is transparent and clear, is characterized by fruit tones and moderate content of tannins, and is naturally stable.
Qvevri clay Contains limestone, and a small number of precious metals - gold, silver, and copper. Lime, which reacts with tartaric acid, on the one hand, strengthens the walls of the Qvevri, on the other hand, acts as a natural antiseptic, which is very important in winemaking, where up to 400 types of bacteria are known. It takes an average of 3 months to make a Qvevri. Most of the time goes into its construction and drying. After the pitchers are built, they are placed in a special oven, where the most difficult stage of roasting begins.
The temperature in Qvevri buried in the ground does not change and it constantly maintains the 13 ° -15 ° required for wine fermentation. It naturally and chronologically carries out the chemical processes that require special equipment and additives in factory production. Before the wine is fermented, it needs frequent stirring, 4-5 times a day. At the end of the fermentation, the grape pips, chacha, and husks start to sink and accumulate at the bottom of the Qvevri. Under the influence of pressure, the pips will be covered by sediment, resulting in the separation of the pips and the wine.
In one of the main wine regions of Georgia - Kakheti, Qvevris are buried in the cellar, while in western Georgia, the wine is stored in hermetically sealed Qvevris in the open air.
There is also a distinctive type of Qvevri wine in Georgia, called “Monastery” wine, the so-called "Zedashe" wine. This is red wine and is used during church rituals. “Zedashe” wine-making procedures are the same as making ordinary wine in a Qvevri. The main difference is not the technology of the wine, but the content and the destination. “Zedashe” wine needs no filtration or saturation with other preparations, but timely removal from the chacha and selection of the right time to decant.
Qvevri wine is produced by many wine companies in Georgia. Other than Georgia, many countries have recently become interested in Qvevri wine production. It is noteworthy that in recent years export of Georgian Qvevri wines is increasing, including to traditional wine countries such as Italy and France.