Quite literally, Georgia is the birthplace of wine. What could be more impressive than that? Perhaps the fact that Georgians have continuously implemented the same traditional winemaking methods for over 8,000 years! No other country can claim that feat. Seemingly, some producers believe their distinctly Georgian winemaking methods best express their indigenous Georgian varieties. However, Georgians frequently use European winemaking techniques as well to make their wines more accessible to the rest of the world. Both winemaking styles produce exceptional wines from unique Georgian varieties like Goruli Mtsvane and more.
Traditional Georgian Winemaking Methods
For millennia, Georgians have practiced low-intervention winemaking with spontaneous fermentations using ancient clay winemaking vessels called qvevri. In 2013, UNESCO recognized this winemaking tradition as essential to humankind’s cultural heritage. So they added winemaking in qvevri to their “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” list. Notably, even winemakers who utilize modernized winemaking techniques today like to integrate qvevri into their winemaking process.
What Are Qvevri?
Qvevri are clay, egg-shaped winemaking vessels that Georgians use to ferment, age, and store wine. These clay vessels range in size and can hold anywhere from 20 to 10,000 liters of wine. Additionally, a very thin layer of beeswax lines the interior walls of the vessels to prevent bacteria from gathering in the miniscule crevices inside.
Usually, winemakers bury qvevri in the ground leaving access to the top of the vessel. Consequently, burying the qvevri provides natural temperature control just as efficient as modern temperature-controlled tanks. They also completely seal the tops of the qvevri to prevent oxidation and contamination.
When spontaneous fermentation on the grapes’ native yeasts commences, the conical shape of the qvevri then lets the yeast and sediment settle at the bottom. While the wine in the larger part of the vessel circulates naturally as carbon dioxide releases during fermentation.
Georgians Are Wine Trendsetters
In modern white wine production, the juice for white wines is pressed off of the skins before fermentation. Traditionally, Georgian winemakers would rather allow the skins to macerate with the juice in qvevri during fermentation for both red and white wines. Instead of producing what most would recognize as a white wine, this practice produce amber colored wines from the skin contact.
Amber wines have more tannin structure and sometimes oxidative notes from the winemaking methods. They also continue to evolve in the glass, which always makes for an interesting wine. In recent years, amber wines (a.k.a. orange wines), have seen a stark rise in popularity the world over. Yet, many wine lovers don’t realize that this winemaking style began thousands of years ago in the qvevri cellars of Georgia.
Natural wine is another trend in which Georgians were ahead of the curve. Today, natural wine means different things to different people. For Georgians, natural wine means allowing the wine to evolve as it will. Fermentation occurs spontaneously with native yeasts. Plus, no additives are needed to preserve the wine, the tannins from the skins (and sometimes stems) will do that for you. They believed in low intervention winemaking at its finest.
The Variety: Goruli Mtsvane
The Wines of Georgia website says that Gorlui Mtsvane is “always the life of the party.” Who couldn’t love a variety with that claim to fame? Gorlui Mtsvane is native to Kartli. The name of the variety actually translates to “green one from Gori,” which is a village in Kartli. Goruli Mtsvane also grows in Racha, Meskheti, Imereti and Kvemo Kartli. Moreover, this variety is known as Kvishkhura in western Kartli. Be sure not to confuse this variety with Mtsvane from Khaketi, which is a different variety entirely. You’ll find Goruli Mtsvane in still white, sparkling, and orange wine styles.
Goga Tevzadze founded Tevza Winery in the Kartli region in 2018. Goga’s traditional micro-winery equipped with a qvevri cellar is located at his home in the village of Saguramo amidst the mountains of Mtskheta. He focuses on producing lively and expressive wines from native varieties in Kartli using only traditional Georgian winemaking methods. Goga’s wines are super low intervention, natural wines from his family’s ten to fourteen-year-old vineyards made with love. Tevza wines offer an artisanal take on the expressions of Kartli varieties, which are typically more energetic, fresh, and soft than other Georgian wines.
Tevza Kartli Red Crazy Alive, Shavkapito 2018
- Goruli Mtsvane grapes were directly crushed into qvevri
- Spontaneous fermentation until the wine fermented dry followed by natural malolactic fermentation
- Maceration and skin contact for 5 months
- Medium plus intensity pronounced aromas of apricot, honeysuckle, dried oranges, olives, and dried herbs
- Fresh and lively, the aromas cary through to flavors on the palate
- Delicate tannins, well-structured, medium-bodied
Orange wines like this Goruli Mtsvane have enough boldness to pair with bolder flavored dishes. For example, try this wine with Indian food and all of its wonderfully spiced curries. Moroccan cuisine also makes a lovely pairing for orange wine. Personally, I love drinking orange wines alongside Asian cuisines. I would love to enjoy a glass of this wine alongside Korean BBQ, a hearty bowl of ramen, or Chinese takeout.