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Georgia: Betting on Clay and Kvevri for Entrée into International Wine Markets

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Grapes are handpicked during the fall harvest at a Georgian vineyard in Kakheti.

It’s grape-harvesting season in the region of Kakheti, the sun-dappled epicenter of Georgian winemaking, and 57-year-old village potter Remi Kbilashvili is busy working with the latest hope for Georgia’s success in international wine markets -- a giant, terra-cotta amphora or kvevri. The kvevri method for fermenting and aging wine, a millennia-old tradition in Georgia, is now used by various Slovenian and Italian wine companies, including renowned Italian winemaker Josko Gravner, to cater to growing demand among high-end consumers for all-natural wines with a rustic taste. It’s a market that Georgia, home of the kvevri, figures rightly belongs to its own winemakers and kvevri artisans. Kvevris crafted by Kbilashvili -- for 700 to 800 lari (about $411 - $470) each -- are sent from his tiny village of Vardisubani to customers not only throughout Georgia, but abroad to Italy. It can take more than three months for him to shape the brown, doughy clay by hand into a kvevri form. It takes a week for the kvevris then to bake in the 1,000-degree Celsius heat of a large, brick kiln, fueled by firewood.

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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance writer based in Tbilisi. Temo Bardzimashvili is a freelance photojournalist also based in Tbilisi.

Georgia: Betting on Clay and Kvevri for Entrée into International Wine Markets

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