As recently reported in a EurasiaNet story and in a post on this blog, the ancient Georgian winemaking tradition known as kvevri (letting the wine age in large clay vessels) is staring to get serious international attention.
The trend has now been noticed by Newsweek, which has just come out with a good story about some of the winemakers outside of Georgia who are now making kvevri wine and about an outfit in Virginia that is using the clay casks to make the world's first kvevri-style cider. From the article:
One of the new Italian converts to qvevri is Elisabetta Foradori. Pouring her rare white, floral wine made from the Nosiola grape, she explains why she loves the qvevri. “My wines find their identity in them so much sooner.” All her production is now in qvevri, even though—don’t tell the Georgians—she too calls them amphorae.
Others have added their own twist to the traditional style. Austrian Bernhard Ott makes a Grüner Veltliner labeled, simply, Qvevri. He picks his chemical-free grapes by hand. He crushes them without machinery. He pours the wine, complete with skins, seeds, and stems, into the qvevri, mimicking the way the Georgians vinify their reds. But instead of marinating his wine for a few weeks, he allows the juice to commingle with its parts for months, resulting in a slight orange color and some gritty tannin. After the wine is finished fermenting, he seals the qvevri hermetically with clay and dirt. He then forgets about the wine. Eight months later, he pries the lid open to find the crud sunk to the bottom. This is extreme hands-off winemaking. “The most pure, clear wine is left when the qvevri is opened up,” he says. David Schildnecht, who covers Austria for The Wine Advocate, calls Ott’s Qvevri “revelational.”
A qvevri curiosity has now touched down in the New World—not in Napa, where you might expect, but in Virginia. And not for wine, but for cider. Here, too, all roads lead back to Gravner. When John Rhett, general manager of Castle Hill Cider, and cider maker Stuart Madney (both former architects) tasted Gravner’s wine, they not only loved the flavor but were also attracted to the qvevri’s egg shape. “Whenever nature wants to preserve life energy, it uses the same form, and that is the egg,” Madney says. The two men persuaded Castle Hill’s owners to shell out a hefty sum to import the vessels. This year they planted eight qvevri on Castle Hill’s grounds. Perhaps the world’s first qvevri cider, called Levity, is now available. Whether it’s the egg shape or beginner’s luck, their brew has more complexity, with a deeper flavor and more nuance, than conventional cider offerings.