Maybe one of the most iconic aspects of winemaking in Georgia is the qvevri, which, according to Erika Frey, is a cone/egg-shaped clay vessel that’s used both for the fermentation and maturation of red wine. Other nations utilize clay vessels, but what sets qvevri apart is the fact that they are generally buried underground, with just the leading opening of the vessel above ground accessible to the winemaker. Usually, these vessels hold around 1,000 to 1,500 liters, though size can differ. The clay resembles stainless steel in that it does not impart much taste to the white wine, but it can promote some oxygenation, similar to (though less than) an oak barrel.
The most renowned qvevri wines are skin-contact (also called amber) white wines made with white grapes. Frey states, “In the Kakheti area, the length of the skin-contact is frequently six months, which develops an amber-colored red wine rich with flavors of dried fruit, honey, and tea and full-bodied with high levels of tannin.”
In the past, this kind of wine making was booked for private homes, churches, and monasteries. “This design of wine has just recently become a business export,” says Frey.