Some thoughts on Kvevri:
Having been invited to attend an evening in honor of Georgia by the lovely Isabelle Legeron, I was privileged to taste a selection of wines made in the old fashioned Kvevris.
These are some thoughts, based on a small amount of reading and tasting six wines. As such, I’m mostly posing the questions that occurred to me.
How much micro oxidation do the Kvevri enable, they surely can’t be too porous otherwise they’d be a bit shit for winemaking.
How are the kvevri cleaned out, obviously the old grape pomace needs removing, but how much tartaric acid residue is present and what effect does this have.
Is there any leaching of minerals from the clay of the kvevri? And if so, does this affect the resultant wine?
Given the liquid is not moved all that much inside the kvevri (they are buried) how much actual contact is there between the wine and the skins, surely the skins will form some sort of semi solid in the base of the kvevri above which there is no contact.
now some notes on the wines –
Iago, Chinuri (cultivar, non aromatic and mostly used for sparkling production) Kartli (region) 2009 – this is from the east of the country and has had 6 months on skins. The wine was a pale golden colour, it had a slight acetyl note, quite grippy tannins, very full bodied for a white, orange peel, black tea, white flowers, something honeyed. All of this was wrapped around a savoury mildly oxidative sort of core flavor. On the palette there was an intriguing feeling of coating on the finish, rather like I imagine lime scale to feel like.
Nika Antadze, Mtsvane (again the cultivar), Kakheti (region) 2009 – this had 1.5 months of skin ageing and was bottled especially for the tasting. Also a light golden colour, this showed a slightly vegetal and volatile nose with green pea notes, and oddly enough an aroma that really reminded me of sugar beet that’s been soaked overnight. On the palette there was the same weighty tannic presence, as well as the sensation of having a mineral mouthwash.
Aleksi Tsikhelashvili, Rkatsiteli (cultivar) Kakheti 2010 – 6 months skin contact, now the only time that I’ve previously come across aromatics as incredibly redolent of Christmas as this wine was in a Solera aged Maury vin doux naturelle, with wines going back 100yrs in the blend. This was a riot of spiced raisins, currants, cloves and toasted cinnamon, aged mincemeat with an brandy like oxidative tang, it may not have been my favourite wine of the evening but it was vertainly the most distinctive. On the palette it had that cold tea tannin and sugarbeet sweetness of the Antadze that it followed.
Our Wine, Rkatsiteli, Kakheti 2006, a deep burnished orange glowing with browned edges, this had a rich warm earthy sort of aroma, redolent of clay dust, on the palette there was an astringent saltiness that brought to mind what I imagine preserved salted apricot skins would taste like, the finish was wooly, salty and earthy, with a great moreish complexity. This was my wine of the evening.
I’ll come back to the reds at a later date as I felt they were substantially less impressive.