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Georgian qvevri wines virtual tasting

Such an informative and insightful virtual tasting on Georgian qvevri wines led by Sarah Abbot MW.

Some key learning and tasting brief notes are below:

Key Grape Varieties:

Rkatsiteli white Indigenous Georgian variety, thick skin produces wines rich with tannins, has tangy vigorous nature and aging potential (57.5% of total harvest).

Mtsvane white Indigenous Georgian variety, with strong varietal aroma produces soft fresh and crisp wines; makes good blend with Rkatisteli (3% of total harvest).

Saperavi red Indigenous Georgian variety (Teinturier), the veins on flesh are red, produces wines with full body, rich tannins and intensive ruby colour, has natural acidity (33.6% of total harvest)

Main takeaway:

Qvevri winemaking is an example of empirical scientific wisdom crafted into an engineering solution.

What does qvevri do:

-temperature control

-promote rapid yeast growth and strong fermentation

-effective cap management (wide belly)

-reductive winemaking

-fired around 1000C more porous, need to line with bees-wax

Today’s wines:

1.2020 Tsolikouri Amber Qvevri, Naberauli Wines, Imereti, Western Georgia (floral, quince, food-friendly)

2.2020 Rare Tsitska, Georgian Wines, Imereti, Western Georgia (herbal, green apple, appoacable)

3.2019 Kisi Qvevri, Babundize Wines, Kakheti, Eastern Georgia (More geeky, but absolute delicious – raisins, candied dried fruit finish, oxidised oolong tea like after taste)

4.2019 Rkatsiteli Mtsvane Qvevri, Casreli Winery, Kakheti, Eastern Georgia (Deep amber, waxy, saffron, food wine)

5.2020 Rkatsiteli Qvevri, Kardanahki Estate, Kakheti, Eastern Georgia (Juicy pickled plums, fine-grained tannins, round and ripe)

6.2020 Rkatsiteli Qvevri, Rtvelisi, Kakheti, Eastern Georgia (modern style, light and elegant, waxy, dried apricot)

7.2020 Rkatsiteli/Chinuri Qvevri, Chubini Wine Cellars, Kakheti, Eastern Georgia (Vibrant acidity, apricot and crunchy golden apple)

8.2020 Rkatsiteli/Saperavi, Brothers Cellar, Bolnisi, South Eastern Georgia (dark rose, food friendly, red plum, violet, prune with subtle tannins)

Thank you Wines of Georgia and Swirl wine group.

Longer notes:

They are a form of the wine making engineering. They’re a form of the earliest technology, our earliest winemakers, not just wanting to make any old wine wanting wine to be delicious and stable and, and, you know, not to be oxidised. So cleverly are really an example of empirical scientific wisdom crafted into an engineering solution.

So what did qvevri do? What winemaking problems do they solve?

Qvevri can moderate and control fermentation temperature.

They promote rapid yeast growth and strong fermentation and they do this through their shape. So this kind of womb-like, tapered top down to a very tapered bottom is a shape that during fermentation dynamics creates this vortex effect. So the circulation coming up and around.

And this is a shape you’ll see in modern winemaking. If you think of concrete eggs have even I mean I’ve seen a few seen these sorts of wooden eggs even in a kind of slightly inverted way you know the conical shape in fermentation vats where you have this angled shape you promote this vortex effect during the circulation both in the development of yeast populations, but then also when you’re ageing wine and you want to keep the lees and the proteins and so on in suspension.

The temperature control is achieved because Qvevri is made of clay and is buried in the ground. So the walls of the Qvevri are in contact with the surrounding earth. And winemakers know that according to the size of the Qvevri they will have sort of a maximum fermentation temperature that can be reached. So the bigger the Qvevri, the higher the fermentation temperature because fermentation as we all know generates a lot of heat. And there is a heat exchange between the surrounding earth which of course at the time of fermentation is cold because fermentation is happening at the end of the year.

2500 L: max fermentation temperature around 25 degrees

< 2000 L: the maximum fermentation temperature is going to be around 20 degrees.

Imereti- smaller 800-1000 L

Kakheti-larger up to 4000 L

It’s not at all I’ll just chuck it in and let it all work. It’s very much an ability to control temperature. Admittedly not with sort of stainless steel and a dial on the on the front but and this is actually why you see quivery, which called Churi in the Ratty are typically smaller, anything sort of 800 litres to just over 1000 whereas inquiry is when you get the really huge whereas in Kakheti sorry, is where you get the really big query, you know even up to 4000 litres.

Qvevri enables effective cap management and inhibits the growth of acetic bacteria.

When fermentation starts Co2 pushes the skins to the top of the Qvevri but it’s a thin wide cap. So this is ideal for managing the cap and for keeping a healthy cap which is how they manage the cap by punching down. And it’s still pretty hard work but he does punch down by hand different regimes according to the style of wine and making.

But it’s absolutely an intelligent way to manage the cat and as we know cat management is essential to inhibiting the growth of acetic bacteria which grow in bits of the cap that have got a bit warmer or that hadn’t been kept damp. Today about 10% proportion of Georgian wine are made in qveri.

Qveveri wines are typically crushed before entering the qvevri and normally going through MLF

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