A Kvevri (Georgian: ქვევრი) (alternate spelling "Qvevri") is a large (800-3500 litres) earthenware vessel originally from Georgia in the Caucasus and dating back to about 8000 BC. It has an inside coat of beeswax, resembles an amphora without handles and is used for the fermentation and storage of wine, often buried below ground level or set into the floors of large wine cellars.
The kvevri is part of traditional Georgian wine making. In the past it was also used for storing grain, butter, cheese, vodka, marinades and a host of perishable foodstuffs, though it was developed primarily for wine making in Georgia. Such large ceramic storage vessels were made in many countries, though none can claim the central importance of large ceramic vessels for wine fermentation.
Makers of kvevri wine claim that such wine is stable by nature, rich in tannins, not requiring chemical preservatives to ensure its long life and superior in taste. The tannins found in this wine limit protein content and prevent turbidity. In the wine-making process, grapes are poured into the kvevri, crushed and left to ferment and mature. Over a period of days, the grape skins are pushed down on the hour and the kvevri is finally covered with a suitable-sized stone cap sealed with clay, and left undisturbed for up to two years. When the wine is ready it is pumped out and bottled, after which the kvevri is sterilised with lime, ready for re-use. Since the Russian market for Georgian wine has dwindled to a trickle, Georgia has revived this ancient method and is exciting interest around the world.
While the rest of the world calls this radical, risky, "natural" winemaking, the Georgians know winemaking on kvevri as simply the way that wine has been made since time began. The inside surface of a kvevri is covered with a thin layer of beeswax - essential for hygiene. A mixture of crushed limestone and water or hot water and ash or even just rigorous scrubbing are all effective methods of cleaning and sanitizing, which do not involve the use of anything noxious. For winemakers all over the world, Kvevri became a symbol of returning to more natural methods - really a shot against the modern industry's pristine and science-based approach.http://www.domainegeorgia.com/
- http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16293&Itemid=77, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/64246
- Georgian Winemaking Makes UNESCO Protected Heritage List RIA Novosti