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A brief overview of the history of the kvevri
The kvevri is one of the most ancient vessels of wine storage which is still used today. Typically, they are buried in the ground with only a stone cap closing the small opening at the top and this is how the wine is stored at a normal temperature.
Typically, Georgians today will use kvevris as yard decorations or keep them on an old horse drawn cart for the traditional Georgian theme, however, there are still many Georgians who use the kvevri to store wine. You can see below what a kvevri looks like when it is out of the ground.
The group of kvevri seen in the picture to the right are in the yard of the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Urbnisi, which is also the seat of the Metropolitan of Ruisi and Urbnisi under the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Though the kvevri seen in this photo are placed as yard decorations, and in many small villages, where they are made, they are strewn across the maker’s yard and ready for someone to buy them. The photo also shows the variety of the kvevri and their sizes. There are even some kvevri which are bigger than the ones shown here.
Many Georgian restaurants, hotels, or parks which have the traditional motif will display kvevri in this manner as a part of theme-based decor, however, many traditional wineries located throughout the Kakheti, Shida Kartli, and Imereti regions of Georgia use kvevri to store special wines and sell it at a higher price.
Many affluent Georgian families store wines in both kvevri and jugs. The wine stored in kvevris is usually kept to age to a certain time. Usually, kvevri wine is allowed to age to the year the family’s son or daughter gets married, a son joins the military or finishes school, etc. Sometimes Georgians will make a large amount of wine to store in a kvevri when a baby is born and the kvevri is usually kept in a traditional wine cellar, known as a ghvinis marani and will not be opened until the child is married or grown up. The ghvinis marani is a different topic all in itself, but the kvevri can be buried in the floor of such a cellar and the top can be covered with concrete with the stone caps of the kvevris being flush with the floors.
Should you attempt to store wine in a kvevri?
Unless you know what you are doing, you should not try to store wine in a kvevri by yourself. Though this is an ancient method of wine storage, if not properly stored where temperature fluctuates, you can spoil the wine. You should only attempt to store wine in a kvevri bought in Georgia and made by special artisans who know what they are doing and what sort of clay is needed. Buying a kvevri and importing it back to the US can incur huge shipping costs as they are quite heavy. If you do have the money to import a kvevri and the facility to install it, here is how you need to do it.
Dig a hole in the ground which is preferably in the basement. You may have to redo your entire basement to do this. You want to make sure that the hole is deep enough that the entire kvevri can fit into it. Use a line level to ensure that the neck of the kvevri is flush with the floor.
- Keep the kvevri level as you are burying it. You want to use a mixture of sand and gravel when burying the kvevri. Be sure the top of the kvevri is level when you bury it. You want to use a level and supports to hold the kvevri in place when you bury it. The sand and gravel will keep the temperature consistent, thus your wine will age and not spoil.
- Have a stone cap fashioned to fit tightly around the mouth of the kvevri. This is very important, as you do not want the wine exposed to the air for a long time. Some people who like to use a kvevri to store wine for special occasions will seal the cap with a weak clay.
Wine stored and aged in a kvevri is a wonderful wine and the taste and aroma is out of this world. Kvevri wine should be stored for a long time, as when air gets exposed to it, it can spoil the wine. You want to keep this in mind if you plan to keep wine in a kvevri.
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