HISTORY OF GEORGIAN WINE
Georgia is one of the most ancient countries in the world with an uninterrupted tradition of viticulture and winemaking. In fact, cultivated grape pips and numerous ancient artifacts were discovered indicating that Georgia is the birthplace of wine with some 8000 years of heritage.
525 indigenous grape varieties can be found in Georgia with around 25 used on a regular basis. Traditional wine-makers in Georgia use clay vessels for fermentation called Qvevri, following an ancient method that has been listed as part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).
Qvevri are large clay vessels that are buried underground and used specifically for wine-making. Archaeological excavations in the Kvemo Kartli region discovered storage vessels similar to these dating back to between the 5th & 6th millenia BC which are now on display in the Georgian National Museum. Qvevri contain clay, limestone and small amount of precious metals - gold, silver and copper. The lime, which reacts with acid, strengthens the Qvevri walls whilst also providing a natural antiseptic. This is of particular importance in viticulture, where approximately 400 bacteria are known.
It takes on average 3 months to make a Qvevri with the largest proportion of the time being spent on its construction and drying. Once made, they are placed in to a special oven, where the most difficult stage of combustion starts. The temperature within buried Qvevri purposefully remains unchanged, preserving the 13-15 degrees necessary for wine fermentation. The chemical processes that take place within the Qvevri are natural and replicate what happens within a factory production line (although the latter requires specialist equipment and additives to get the same effect). Before wine fermentation, it needs frequent stirring - four to five times a day. At the end of the fermentation process, grape pips, chacha and grape stems start to sink and are accumulated together at the bottom of the Qvevri. Under the pressure, the grape pips are covered with lees, after which pips and wine are separated from each other.
In Kakheti, one of the principal wine-making regions of Georgia, Qvevris are buried in wine cellars called Marani. Maranis are treasured within Georgia, so much so that some have been granted Museum status in order to preserve their ancient heritage and unique qualities.
The wine-making methods do differ slightly depending on the region. In western Georgia wine is stored in hermetically sealed Churi (Qvevri) in the open air. In Kakkheti, a large propoftion of chacha is added to the wine to aid the fermentation process, whilst in Imeretian they add just one-third of chacha to grape juice, which is poured from the wine-press into the Qvevris.
In addition to its distinguished micro-climate, soil and traditional methods of wine-making, the uniqueness of Georgian wine is also conditioned by endemic varieties of Georgian vine. Nowadays, there are more then 500 endemic varieties in Georgia, a few of which had been believed to be lost but have recently been rediscovered & recultivated.
Almost all wine companies produce Qvevri wine in Georgia. With the support of the National Wine Agency, under the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia, Qvevri wine-producing companies have the opportunity to represent own products in the international exhibitions of natural wines in different countries which increases awareness and promotion of Qvevri wine.
We have seen an increase in interest in Georgian wine from around the world and are happy to be able to bring these ancient wines to new audiences.