Kvevri, Satsnakheli, Gideli, Orshimo... The Traditions of Georgian Wine
06 February, 2015
Kvevri, Satsnakheli, Gideli, Orshimo... The Traditions of Georgian Wine
Descending from the Trees in Peace

“When wine is aged in a clay vessel, it assumes a completely different taste and properties. As you know, any wine requires filtering and processing. Upon pouring wine into a kvevri (a giant clay jug) my grandfather, who was from Guria, used to take a handful of bluish Askaneti soil, wrap it tightly in gossamer and leave it hanging inside the jug for the entire winter. The soil would absorb all harmful substances and
waste, leaving the wine crystal clear,” Beso Bajelidze says. Bajelidze is the director of the Georgian Parliament’s National Library’s wine hall. We asked him to share traditions of Georgian winemaking with our readers:


– Before we move onto the main topic, could you first explain why was it decided to add a wine hall to the National Library?

– The idea belongs to Giorgi Kekelidze, director of the library and Malkhaz Kharbedia, founder of the Wine Club. They decided that Georgia needs to have a library dedicated to this particular field. We gathered a multitude of books scattered about numerous libraries and placed them in this hall. Currently we have 700 books on winemaking and viticulture in general here, and new additions arrive daily. We also have books dedicated to origins and history of various alcoholic drinks, ways of combating diseases that affect grapevines and so on. Not bad for a start, is it? Wine isn’t just something that gets you drunk. It is an aspect of enormous cultural heritage that needs to be treasured and protected. Today we have up to 600 grape varieties in Georgia – many of them are on the brink of disappearance, unfortunately.
Our library isn’t just about collecting books; we are also creating a digital database that would contain information on all the Georgian winemakers that ever existed.

“Kvevri wine can be recognized by its peculiar taste and is indeed very special.”

– Using kvevri to age wine is an ancient Georgian tradition that was included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. Could you tell us more about it?

– A little known fact is that in Western Georgia, kvevri is called churi. This is an archaic word, confirmed by an archeological dig that unearthed a VI century kvevri with inscription that stated “This churi was laid by such-and-such.” As far as classification goes, a churi is enormous in size, able to fit a grown man inside (which actually happens when it’s being cleaned). A kvevri is smaller. The smallest of these jugs is called botsa.

– Many think that Georgian wine has healing properties. Can you elaborate on this?

– It does indeed have medicinal qualities. Though I am not entirely sure what diseases it cures. French winemakers claim that wine is indispensable when it comes to cardiovascular disorders – if consumed moderately, of course. It’s paradoxical, but instances of alcoholism are much more rare in countries with developed viticulture.

– Are traditional winemaking items such as satsnakheli, gideli and orshimo still widely used?

– Satsnakheli is a manual winepress. It still sees much use. Nowadays they are made of basswood, but in the past they were made from the wood of giant nut-trees that, apparently no longer exist in the region. Gideli, a small handheld basket used for collecting grapes, is still utilized in Western Georgia, where grapevines wind along tall trees. Collecting them is no easy task. A man would climb the grapevine with a gideli on his forearm, gather grapes into it and then lower it down on a rope to another man waiting below. The man below would empty it into a godori (a larger basket) and recite a short prayer: “Descend from the tree in peace.” Orshimo is a scoop that is used to get wine from kvevri, and is usually made from a wild pumpkin or gourd. Once such a pumpkin ripens, it is cut open and cleaned out, then left under the sun for some time. Once it hardens, a handle is attached, creating a very convenient scoop.
Another little known fact: Georgia is the only country where wine and grapevine have a multitude of names.

Related story:

How Georgians brought wine to Europe
Print
Other Stories
Things to keep in mind while travelling to Georgia
If you are planning to visit Georgia, Georgian Journal will provide you with important tips and recommendations.
3 Innovative startups created in Georgia
Georgian students have created a number of interesting startups in recent years.
Stunning Georgian Monasteries captured by Giorgi Nikolava
Georgian photographer Giorgi Nikolava has captured beautiful views of Georgian Monasteries.
Georgia, I love you - Georgian policemen's honorable behavior leaves tourist excited
"The Georgian police went above and beyond my expectations" - writes Nicole on Facebook.
Cave cities to visit in Georgia
Georgia boasts its unique caves spread out across the country.
Top 12 Must-See Places in Georgia
If you are going to visit Georgia, there are top 12 places you must visit throughout the country.
Unique Qvevri-made whisky by Alexander Distillery
Whisky is a strong alcoholic beverage, an aromatic drink, which is made from fermented grain mash in oak barrels.
Virtual tour to snowy Georgia by Shermazana
Georgia is distinguished by its unique nature. Georgia boasts its Mountains, lakes, rivers and a sea, forests and resort towns, all found in a single country.
History of the Georgian resort town Borjomi
Borjomi is a resort town located in the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia.
CNN about abandoned Tskaltubo Spa
CNN has recently published an article about the abandoned sanatoriums of Tskaltubo, a town in the west part of Georgia.
4 Estonians and a Lithuanian who farm tea in Georgia
What comes to your mind when you hear Georgia? Lots of things: wine first of all, cuisine, nature and mountains covered with snow all year, tourism, but what about tea?
Georgia celebrates National Flag Day
Today on the 14th of January Georgia celebrates National Flag Day.
Imeretian vine species: Black Acorn
Georgia boasts more than 500 varieties of indigenous grapes, some of them are not found anywhere in the world.
The New York Times advices Americans to visit Batumi in 2019
“Tbilisi, Georgia’s charming capital, has been flooded with tourists over the past decade”
Georgian mountain town Mestia on the travel hotlist
The daily newspaper Daily Express in the United Kingdom has recently published an article about the top up-and-coming travel destinations for this year.
Washington Post about Georgian wine on Mars and Chakrulo
Washington Post has recently published an article about the IX Millennium project and the Georgian team experimenting on grape varieties and Mars-like soil.
Tbilisi covered with fireworks on the New Year’s Eve
Old Tbilisi was entirely covered with fireworks on the New Year’s Eve in Georgia.
Alilo – Christmas tradition in Georgia
Alilo is a traditional Georgian Christmas song performed the night before Christmas.
Georgian wines to taste for Christmas and New Year
Georgia is the country where the earliest evidence of grape wine-making was found.
8 Georgian buildings nominated at the Mies van der Rohe Award
8 Georgian buildings have been nominated at the European Union Prize of Contemporary Architecture, Mies van der Rohe Award 2019.
Georgian wine wins gold medals in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Georgian wines have recently received gold medals at the International Wine Tasting Competition “Vine East”.
Founder of brandy tradition in Georgia – David Sarajishvili
Wine making has long tradition in Georgia. It has been made for centuries in this country and scientists sometimes call Georgia a cradle of wine.
“Mekvleoba” and “Bedoba” – New Year traditions in Georgia
New Year is one of the main celebrations in the wintertime.
Wintertime paintings by Georgian artists
The wintertime is always associated with snow, Christmas and New Year.
Festive decorations in different parts of Georgia
Georgia gets ready for Christmas and New Year.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
18.02.2019
19.02.2019
USD
1
USD
2.6413
2.6404
EUR
1
EUR
2.9791
2.9908
GBP
1
GBP
3.3851
3.4130
RUB
100
RUB
3.9608
3.9898