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Qvevri and Qvevri Wine

Qvevri at Vinopolis in London

Our interest in Georgian wines began at the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference in Perugia, Italy. After a day of conference sessions and a wonderful evening at a winery, we returned to our hotel. In the lobby was a small delegation from Georgia with a few Georgian wines. I joined them for a while and began to learn about Georgia, the cradle of wine. At the 2013 International Wine Tourism Conference in Zagreb, Croatia, Georgia was identified as the site for the 2014 conference. There were several Georgian wines at the presentation, one a qvevri (also “kvevri”) wine.

As we research Georgia and its long history of winemaking and grape growing, we come across many references of wines being made in qvevri, earthenware tanks used to ferment and age wine. These qvevri are not a new fad, but ancient, really ancient. The Georgians have made wine in qvevri for thousands of years, long before the Romans brought vines to France or the Etruscans tended vineyards in what is now Italy.

Qvevri buried at Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, Virginia

Our first learning about qvevri was not during our research about Georgia though. We saw our first qvevri while visiting Vinopolis in London. At the time, in 2007, Vinopolis was a wine museum. The first room focused on the area that is now Georgia and had a qvevri on display. More recently, we visited a cidery in Charlottesville, Virginia that purchased several qvevri from a Georgian producer. They were buried underground at the cidery. At the time of our visit, the plan was to make hard cider in the qvevri, although they had not yet started.

Our first tasting of qvevri wine came during a visit to Croatia in March of 2013. Kabola Winery in Momjan, Croatia makes a qvevri wine during years that the Malvazija Istarska is exceptionally good. The grapes are placed in the qvevri where they ferment and then age for a time. At Kobola the aging lasted six months. During that time in a qvevri, the wine is extracting color from the skins and tannins from the skins and stems. The resulting white wine is a deep gold or amber color with plenty of fruit characteristics on the bouquet and taste.

Our interest in qvevri and qvervi wines have resulted in many questions. How are qvevri cleaned and sanitized? How does the winemaker reduce and control against oxidation? What are the traditions associated with qvevri in Georgia? Are qvevri wines more popular for white wine production or red wine production? How many qvevri are exported to other countries? There are many more questions about qvevri and qvevri wines. We hope to discover the answers during our September visit to Georgia.


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