“…the only country in the world where winemaking methods that were developed up to 8,000 years ago have not been abandoned, but remain in many ways best practice.”
Qvevri. Honoring an ancient process.
Wine made today in the traditional Georgian method follows the same process Georgians developed to make wine more than 8,000 years ago. This tradition of winemaking in clay pots—or qvevri—is so tied to the culture, UNESCO recognized it as essential to humankind’s cultural heritage in 2013. This distinction did more than identify these ancient clay pots as important historical artifacts; it acknowledged the enduring power of a living tradition. Even Georgian winemakers who use modern equipment and techniques, like stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, recognize the qvervi as an important part of their heritage - a living symbol of the deep roots of Georgian wine and the authenticity of Georgian winemaking.
Despite modern technological advancements, these egg-shaped pots – known as amphora in other winemaking regions - range in size from 20 to 10,000 liters, and are painstakingly hand-crafted of local clays by Georgians who have inherited their craft from their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. Moreover, many of the qvevris used in Georgia today are artifacts themselves, having been in use for decades if not centuries.
Although they’ve been used for thousands of years, qvevris are not antiquated technology. In fact, their use applies advanced science that to this day remains unchallenged. Before use, qvevri are carefully cleaned and coated with beeswax before juice is added, and then completely sealed to further prevent contamination and oxidation. The natural yeasts of the grapes allow fermentation without additives, and the natural tannins prevent spoilage without artificial preservatives. The vessels’ conical shape allows yeast and sediment to settle to the bottom freely while the wine is allowed to circulate within the wider center. When buried underground, qvevri maintain the temperature of fermenting wine like modern temperature-controlled tanks do.
Though few craftsmen are still making them, the qvevri is a reminder that winemaking in Georgia is not a borrowed tradition. It is a skill that transcends generations with a deep understanding of winemaking’s power to transform a country’s history—and inform its future.