Traditional Georgian wines are made in Qvevri
Qvevri is a clay vessel used for fermenting and aging white and red wines.
Almost all Georgian wines made through traditional winemaking technology include "Qvevri" on the main label. Some winemakers write it with K - "kvevri" on the title, but ultimately, both spellings indicate the same method of making wine with extended skin maceration.
Qvevri is not an Amphora
Many people use Amphora to describe Qvevri; however, Qvevri is a pure Georgian vessel unrelated to Greek Amphora or Spanish Tinaja.
Qvevri is an egg-shaped clay vessel that is buried in the ground and used for winemaking purposes. Its unique shape stabilizes the wine, and the bottom part plays the role of a collector. Due to gravity, the pomace (pressed skin, seed, stalks) flows down during the storage process and creates natural stabilization for the wine.
That's the reason why you may find many Georgian wine labels include "unfiltered," clarifying that no artificial filtration was made during the bottling process.
Sidenote: The evidence of the oldest Qvevri dating back to 6000 BC was found in Kvemo Kartli, Georgia. Qvevri making remains an honorable but very scarce profession in Georgia. Currently, only three families continue to make qvevris and transfer the knowledge from generation to generation. Qvevries are made in different volumes (from 50 liters to 3.5 tones) and only by hand.
Amber or Orange wines?
Differ from the classic white wine style - the amber winemaking process involves extended skin contact. According to the amber wine technology, white grapes are pressed, fermented, and aged with skins in Qvevri.
Skin contact and aging create a deep color associated with an amber/orange hue. Hence, the term amber/ orange wine. On the Georgian white qvevri wine label, you might often notice "amber wine" instead of "qvevri wine" or "orange wine," as it is a preferred term for Georgian winemakers.
Sidenote: In the Georgian language, the color amber translates to as "qarva" (ქარვა). So, amber-colored wines are called "Qarvisperi" (ქარვისფერი). Peri - means color in Georgian.
Difference between Kakhetian and Imeretian wine style
From mountainous subtropical Adjaria to valleys of continental Kakheti, you will be surprised by the diversity of wine styles and grape varieties.
There are two main styles spread throughout the country: Kakhetian (eastern) and Imeretian (western).
The main difference between those two styles is the duration of the skin maceration. Imeretian wines tend to be lighter in the body than Kakhetian. This is because the skin contact period lasts only for three months, while Kakhetian technology involves a minimum of six months of maceration.
Georgian wine characteristics
Georgian wine is unique in terms of its characteristics: except full-bodied white as well as red wines.
Unlike the classic wine styles, you get higher tannins and alcohol in Georgian wine, enabling the wine to age longer and keep its wild side for years.
The most planted Georgian white grape variety is Rkatsiteli, while the Saperavi grape variety mainly dominates the red winemaking.
Besides the most planted varieties, the Georgian wine industry proudly presents rare local grapes like Chitistvala, Mtsvivani, Tetra etc.
We hope Georgian wines will offer you a new "Narnia" by opening an exciting new vision of wine philosophy and creating memorable experiences. Cheers!
By Tamuka Araviashvili, the wine-educator from Georgia