Qvevri making

Qvevri is Georgian unique clay vessel that counts 8 thousand years history of it’s being and ,which has always been used for the storage of wine in Georgia.

Qvevri is unique for it’s certain combination of qualities: the clay mineral and chemical composition, features of water, climate, harvesting and scorching methods experienced through centuries.

Pottery or so called qvevri making, is time-consuming art which turned into family activities and passes from generation to generation.

Getting wine of distinctive quality, depends on Potter's skills and knowledge.

The process of making qvevri, starts from the beginning of warm days of March and lasts up to middle of October.

Qvevri must be made of special clay, which is found in the mountain layers . It is rich in gold, a non-ferrous metals, minerals and lime. Lime is natural antiseptic, which protects wine from 400 different harmful bacteria.

Clay brought from ore , is kept in open air for about a month,. During aeration period, clay "matures" revealing useful qualities.

After gaining appropriate features , clay it’s put on the special table in a daylight, moistened with source of water and left overnight. Next day, clay is added the black river silts, thereafter ,the mass is manually released from major factions and kneaded.

Kneaded clay, is put special machine tool, with a help of which bottom of qvevri is manually taken out, after this process, it’s moderately moved to a cool room where formation of qvevri walls of is done gradually .

Taking out qvevri walls which should be 15-20 centimeters in height and 3 centimeters thick, is a countinuous process and done in layers. The top layer, is temporarily sealed with a damp cloth. Each subsequent layer formation depends on consistence of dryness of previous layer.

Qvevri making - is a long term process, and depends on capacity of qvevri. For example, making 2 ton qvevri takes 7-10 days.

Qvevri shaping is done by regulating inner diameter of each layer and accuracy depends on potter's skillfulness.

The shape of a qvevri was refined, it was made with the same geometry and remained the same for centuries. Qvevri can resist mechanized movements and is ideal vessel for wine fermentation and storage.

During Wine fermentation process, natural yeast precipitates on the bottom of the qvevri . Over time, it is covered by husks of grape which separates it from the liquid. Husks of grape are kept in the qvevri for 3-6 months and regulates wine fermentation process. On the top of the qvevri , where liquid mixes with the air, " wine accumulates in the throat of qvevri " but pure and most valuable -" pure fractions", moves to the middle of the qvevri .

Qvevri shaping process ends up with forming "qvevri throat", the diameter of which is considered to be appropriate to human size.

When qvevri making process is completed, it needs to be dried for about a month. According to the clay color ,potter decides when it is required to move it to a furnace for scorching.

Before scorching , qvevri is quite heavy, and despite of solidity, it remains fragile. Moving 2 ton qvevri to a furnace requires 6-7 persons power. Qvevri is loaded in horizontal position on a special cart ,carried to the furnace and put inside , upside down .

The form of a furnace is arch like and oblong with open surface. After putting qvevri into the furnace , it’s pavered with bricks and clay for a definite time. Construction technique of furnace has not changed yet , they might differ in capacity.

During first three days, the temperature infurnace is gradually raised, reaching 1200 degrees. The heat is so strong that can be felt in 20-30 meter distance. Scorching qvevri takes approximately 7 days and needs 24 hour temperature control . During this period , three truck wood is needed to be burnt.

While scorching process, hot masses circulation takes place. Strong heat, emitted from walls, reaches the arch and qvevri is so hot that it sparkles, making an image of transparency.

After the scorching process is stopped, furnace starts cooling. Finally the front paved part of the furnace is moved away and qvevri is cooled. Scorched , but still warm qvevri , is loaded on a cart and taken out carefully.

Qvevri s then, are left in the open air to start it’s processing: inner surface is covered by natural honey layer and an outer surface is cemented with concrete or lime layers.

Qvevri which is made ,scorched and processed properly, is solid and resistant toward mechanical and climat changes. It’s ready for natural fermentation, getting unique features characteristic to qvevri wine.

Qvevri making art is related to local rich natural resources, traditional technologies and potter’s skillfulness. This particular union proves the fact that wine making in this kind of vessel, is possible only in Georgia.