Georgia has one of the oldest wine-making traditions in the world. Due to archaeological findings wine production in Georgia goes back to 6000 BC, the country is therefore called the birthplace of wine. Thanks to the ancient tradition of wine production and ideal climate, Georgia nowadays has some of the best wines in the world.
The ‘qvevri’ is an essential part of traditional Georgian winemaking. The clay jars hold up to 3500 litres and are buried into the ground. The ripe grapes with skin – red or white – are put into the qvevri for fermentation during 20 days where they need to be mixed 3 to 4 times a day. After the first 20 days the red grape juice is separated from the skins which are reused for producing Chacha (Georgian grappa). The juice is put into another qvevri for another two weeks and from there moved into oak barrels where it matures for 12 months. This step is necessary to make it milder because Georgian wine is very rich in tannins.
The white grapes stay in the same pot after the 20 days and are then covered with a lid. On top of the lid they put sand and wet it with water every day to make sure no air gets in. The white wine is then put in tanks and processed according to the European tradition.
There are more than 400 types of grapes in Georgia. Before the Soviet era they counted more than 600 but many of them were destroyed during that time. Today the most famous grape type is Saperavi which comes in more than 12 varieties such as Kindzmarauli or Mukuzani named after the region where they grow.
Every family has its own wine production. They produce up to 1000 litres which rarely lasts for one year. At festivities such as weddings, birthdays or funerals male family members easily drink up to 3 to 4 litres each. Because everyone produces their own wine most of the industrially produced wine is exported to countries like Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, China and today also to Europe.
Old qvevris exhumed from the ground. They take about 7 hours to clean and for that one needs to climb inside.
A qvevri in use filled with red grapes.
Stirring is hard work and one needs to be careful not to fall in.
These French oak barrels are ready to be filled.
A lucky day for us, the lady from the wine estate was asked the same morning by her father to bring his homemade wine to the lab at work to test the quality and its strength. The lab declared the wine to be of very high quality and 14 per mille strong. We tasted the wines and must say that they differ quite a bit – similar to clear or unfiltered apple juice. The homemade one is rougher, stronger in taste and slightly carbonated.