Tag Archives: qvevri

The orange encounter

“What is this?” I asked, totally confused. It was a white wine. The colour was like amber, but most surprising, there were loads of tannins. I had never tasted anything like it before.

Jennifer had dropped by. Accompanied by this mysterious bottle. But she refused to show it to me.  She insisted, “you must make a guess.”

It was something totally new. And not just something interesting. I liked the wine. The nice amber colour, almost a hint of salmon pink, not quite clear. The nose, a tone of medicine and so much smoke. It could have been a tough single-malt. The dry, concentrated palate. Medium-bodied, good acidity, and all those tannins together with a touch of oxidisation, just as from a forgotten, half-eaten apple or a sherry. Good length with sweet smokiness.

There was no guess and Jennifer dropped the answer. “I thought you’d like to try and not just read about it. You talk about history. This wine is history.” 

It was from Georgia. Made traditionally in qvevri. Qvevri, a large amphora, 2000-4000 litres, made of clay and lined with beeswax. Then buried in the soil, giving a natural temperature control. A method known for 8000 years.

The grape was Mtsvane, organically grown and then fermented with natural yeast. The grape skins and some fine stems included in the fermentation and then retained in the qvevri during the storage period of some months. No filtration.

So this was the explanation to the tannins. And to the colour. Amber I say, but some see it as orange. Hence the term orange wines. 

My first orange encounter was the Pheasant’s Tears Mtsvane 2009. I hope for many more encounters along this path. A new dimension to be explored.

A moment of eternity

Ten thousand years! Of course, that is a long, long time. So what? Well, the reason it fascinates me is the link to the history of the shimmering liquid in my glass.

Yes, it is thought that wine first was made 10.000 years ago. In a region that is now Georgia and Armenia. Then of wild grapes. The cultivation was a later practice, believed to have started some 3.000 years later.

We know for certain that wine was elaborately made, by the hands of men or women with use of winemaking equipment, for more than 6.000 years ago. The location was Armenia, near the southern border with Iran.  In 2007 archaeologists found ancient grape seeds in a cave complex in the Little Caucasus Mountains. The discovery encouraged them to begin an excavation, with an amazing result. In 2010, the oldest winery of the world was found.

The cave holds a complete wine making facility, dated back to 4100 BCE, with a wine press, a clay vat used for fermentation and storage pots. There were even remains of pressed grapes and grape must made of vitis vinifera.

In Georgia, wine is still made very traditionally, using qvevri. A clay vessel buried under the ground, where the grapes are fermented up to six months, taking advantage of the natural coolness provided by the surrounding earth.

So different compared to the modern shining stainless steel wineries. And yet the same. The grapes are crushed, fermented, pressed and there it is – the wine. Young, but still possible to drink at once.

It is a breath-taking perspective, feeling the history and development during thousands of years. An eternity of time. Thinking of the people dedicated to wine then and now. I am grateful to them all. Thanks for this wonderful glass of wine!