More than 6,000 years ago, people learned to deliberately ferment sugars, producing the first wines. In those days, the process depended on burying enormous clay vessels in the earth, and using the earth’s insulating properties to ensure proper temperatures and environments for the yeast. It was by definition, environmentally sustainable, low footprint, completely organic. Qvevri (Georgian: ქვევრი; alternate spelling “Kvevri”, or in neighboring Armenia: Կարաս or “karas”) are large (800-3500 liters) earthenware vessels, resembling amphora without handles, originally from Georgia in the Caucasus and dating back to about 6,000 BCE. They are used for the fermentation and storage of wine, often buried below ground level or set into the floors of large wine cellars.
The clay vessels are known as qvevri, and while they are precursors to, they are distinct from amphora. Qvevri can range in size up to <10,000 liters, and have been unearthed, in 1,000 year old monasteries, still containing traces of wine. There are some currently in use in Vani, the site of the legends of Jason and the Golden Fleece.
A small group of crafts-persons, academics and interested parties are working to bring this method to the US.