Breweries, Wine, and Cheese Lifestyle

The Grapevine: Georgian Winemaking Dates Back Thousands of Years

Wine storage using qvevri vessels in Batumi, Georgia. Photo by Ivan Semenovych

By Gina Trippi

Set your wine calendar for back to the future! Wine from Georgia, one of the oldest wine-producing countries, is back and trending.

Georgia is located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, part of the Caucasus region bounded on the west by the Black Sea, on the north and east by Russia and Turkey and on the south by Armenia. The moderate climate and moist air influence from the Black Sea provide near perfect conditions for vine cultivation. The vineyard soil is so accommodating that the grapevines grow up the trunks of fruit trees, grapes hanging down among the fruit as they ripen.

Archaeologists unearthed clay vessels called qvevri (pronounced kway-vree) used in winemaking dating back 8,000 years. How do we know these clay jars were used for winemaking? Because grapeseeds were found in the jars! Amazed by the longevity of these jars, UNESCO included qvevri on the 2013 Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

The qvevri is a large egg-shaped, beeswax-lined, porous terracotta vessel. Once filled with grapes—skins intact—the vessel is buried underground for six months. Due to the vessel’s bulbous shape and pointed bottom, it acts as a natural filtration system. This ancient tradition of winemaking in Georgia is solidly intertwined with the national identity of the people. There are more than 500 indigenous grape varieties in Georgia.

While many countries claim to be the birthplace of wine, Georgia makes the best case. And now, after centuries, Georgian wine is accessible in this country—more specifically, in Asheville! Metro Wines has both a red and white wine.

Saperavi, pronounced sah-per-ra-vee and translating to “place of color” in English, originated in eastern Georgia and is now the most widely planted red varietal in the country. Indigenous to Georgia, the grape produces a full-bodied wine that is inky, deep red to nearly black in color with a profound texture.

Our Qvevri Saperavi was made, pursuant to tradition, in clay. Collection and processing of grapes is by hand. Deep in fruit character, yet brisk with acidity, this gutsy grape presents a unique alternative to everyday reds. Characteristically a dark red, opaque color in the glass, Saperavi is one of the few teinturier grapes—a red wine grape with dark skins and flesh—in the world. A varietally correct representation, this bottle has aromas and flavors of dark berries, licorice, grilled meat, tobacco, chocolate and spices.

The Qvevri Kisi Amber White is what is now called an orange wine. Again, Georgia is the birthplace of this style of wine. An orange wine is a type of white wine made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the juice, creating a deep orange-hued finished product.

In the glass, our orange wine is straw in color. Made in Qvevri, it is bold with honeyed aromas of tropical fruit, hazelnut, brazil nuts, juniper, sourdough and dried orange rind. On the palate, the wine is dry and presents tannins similar to a red wine.

Back to the future with wines from Georgia!

Gina Trippi is the co-owner of Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte Street in Asheville. Committed to the community, Metro Wines offers big-shop selection with small-shop service. Gina can be reached at gina@metrowinesasheville.com or 828.575.9525.

Leave a Comment