Wine making in Georgia

16 October 2018

Interview with 

Aleksander Chkhaidze, KTW

Georgian qvevri

Georgian qvevri

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How did the invention of winemaking affect how wine is created in Georgia today? Georgia Mills found out about the current way of making (and drinking) wine from Aleksander Chkhaidze, managing director of KTW Group, on of Georgia's largest wine manufacturers. 

Aleksander - We’re an interesting country in terms of winemaking because not only do we do wine by traditional way of European way, but we also do our own traditional way which is making wine in qvevris, which are a clay vessel, huge ones starting maybe from 5 litres going up to a couple of thousand litres. We handpick the grapes, and after handpicking our grapes we transfer it to our marani where we have kvevries.

Georgia - What’s a “Moroni”?

Aleksander - Marani is a wine cellar in Georgia. A very widespread and nationally treasured word for us.

Georgia - Oh! Marani not moroni!

Aleksander - Marani not moroni.

Georgia - And do you have a marani here?

Aleksander - Yes, I can walk you through.

Georgia - Can we have a look?

Aleksander - Yes, sure.

Georgia - Fantastic. It’s a beautiful building. Massive church appearance. Wow, and it’s just opened up into this massive cellar full of wine bottles. It’s a lot of wine you’ve got here. What are these traps in the ground? They look like they’re designed for people to fall down.

Aleksander - Those traps, we call them qvevris.

Georgia - Oh, these are qvevris?

Aleksander - Yes, they are.

Georgia - I’m going to stick my head in one. They’re - oh my gosh - they’re huge. There’s some excellent reverb in there. So you can probably tell from the sound just how big these are. And they are being kept underground for, I guess, you put all the grapes in there and then seal it up?

Aleksander - Yep.

Georgia - And so putting wine in a qvevri that’s quite a different method to the rest of the world so what impact does that have on a flavour?

Aleksander - Oh, it gives us stronger flavour then the regular method of making wine. But qvevri is so different that I’ve never heard an instance where somebody tried qvevri and said oh, that reminds me of something because it’s so different. It gives it a clay-like flavour which is weird because we don’t eat clay but at least we have smelled it. We have experienced it. And there is a saying that we use in Georgia that “clay makes wine better.”

Georgia - And almost as important as the wine making traditions are the wine drinking traditions!

Aleksander - Our Sucra, which is a feast is a very interesting phenomenon. It’s led by a guy named Tamada who people choose before the feast.

Georgia - So the Tamada is someone who sort of leads the table.

Aleksander - Yeah. He leads the table by saying the toasts.When he says a toast, everybody has to say that toast. Maybe they can just say "gaumarjos", which is cheers, but they can also add something. And usually when we drink, tamada says something and then all of us just say something about that toast. It’s not only a drinking process, the process goes into communication and you become close to each other after Georgian feast because you open up about many things and you talk about different stuff. It’s not just like cheers, cheers, cheers and drink. And sometimes we have a thing called a “Different”, when we introduce some weird stuff to drink out of. It can sometimes be a huge clay jar or a vase, or, I don’t know, some people drink out of a guitar as well, or a shoe sometimes. We don’t do that kind of stuff mostly, just something drinkable, you know, a vase or a huge glass or to like add a new flavour to the feast.

Georgia - A new flavour, especially if it’s from a shoe.

Aleksander - Yeah, I don’t like drinking from a shoe.

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