The conservation jar, kvevri (qvevri) is from Magharo, Kakheti, Georgia, a major winemaking area from ancient times to the present; the handmade tools are from Racha (Račha), Georgia. One is the “philtri ou kalati” for filtering the wine and the other is a pole with clay panels fastened to the end for mixing the wine before the jar is sealed. This pole is also used for stirring the wine after fermentation and the opening of the jar.
Our Blood is Wine – An Intimate Journey To The Birthplace of Wine
The Wine History Project exhibit, ZIN/SLO in 2018, traced the history of winemaking to small villages in the Caucasus Mountains. Last June, our staff explored the 8,000-year-old winemaking techniques using ancient Qvevri for fermentation and storage at the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean in Marseille, France. I was given a personal tour of the tool and equipment collection acquired in ancient villages including those of the Republic of Georgia. Georgia is located at the meeting of Europe and Asia between high mountains and the Black Sea. It was a thrill to see the ancient objects on display.
Winemaking in the Republic of Georgia dates back to the fifth millennium (5000 BC to 4001 BC). The method includes crushing the grapes, and then pouring the must, grape skins, pips (seeds) and stalks into a large handmade clay jar which is filled by two-thirds in volume and sealed for nine months. The ancient clay jars are handmade and fired in a kiln. The jars taper to a point at the bottom so they can be stored upright in the earth before the contents are poured in. The general term for this storage vessel is a kvevri, however, in the Republic of Georgia the clay vessel is known as a qvevri. When nine months have passed, the wine is opened and stirred before the tasting. Friends and family are invited to celebrate the opening of the qvevri. Some families have their own qvevri and make their own wine but since neolithic times, the qvevri has also been a community resource. In 2013 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) placed this winemaking method on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The DVD I recommend to you is Our Blood is Wine, a film by Emily Railsback. The filmmaker and American sommelier, Jeremy Quinn, toured the Republic of Georgia to look at the winemaking traditions of today after 70 years of Russian occupation and a 7- year Russian embargo lasting from 2006 until 2013. During the Russian occupation most vineyards became part of the Russians collectives; each family was only allowed to keep one acre of grapes. Winemaking was forbidden. Only one percent of the wine produced today is made in the traditional style. The Georgians are returning to their original methods of making wines in the rural villages and showing the younger generations how it was done. The commercial wine industry started to reemerge in 2015, with a number of private wineries producing wines for export. Some of the vines are over 400 years old and are as large as trees, giving new meaning to the phrase “old vines.”
The name of the film, Our Blood is Wine, refers to the many invaders who have conquered the area. This film, narrated by Jeremy Quinn and hundreds of voices raised in song, is a world history lesson as well as an exploration of winemaking over the last 8,000 years. It bears watching several times to absorb the history of the Republic of Georgia. The film, released in 2018, is available on Amazon.