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Making Qvevri Wine: Cleaning the Qvevri


At home, I am very concerned about making wine in carboys and small plastic fermenters that are clean and sanitized. Sometimes it takes a brush to remove crud. If you just sanitize, you end up with sanitized crud in your fermentation vessel. So I was naturally interested in how to prepare a qvevri for receiving the grapes.

Our qvevri, at Twins Wine Cellars in Napareuli was over 60 liters in capacity. It was too large to reach the bottom with your arm, so washing it with a hand-held brush wouldn’t work. It was too small to climb into it, so once again a hand held brush would not work. We had to clean the qvevri from above ground. We began by pouring a bucket of fresh clean water into the qvevri. Then using a cleaning tool I brushed the sides of the qvevri. The tool was made of a long handle with a four inch by six inch brush made from cherry bark on the other end. The cherry bark end was strong enough to roughly rub the sides of the qvevri. After a little rubbing the side with the cherry bark, the water needed to be replaced and the process repeated again for five or six times.

Removing the dirty water at the bottom of the qvevri was also a problem since we couldn’t reach into the qvevri to the bottom. However a small bowl with sticks attached to its sides was used. Manipulating the sticks, one stick could turn the bowl upside down. The upside down bowl was lowered to the bottom of the qvevri. The other stick could turn the bowl right side up and scoop up the dirty water. I then raised the bowl out of the qvevri and dumped the dirty water into a bucket. The process is continued until the clean water poured into the qvevri comes out clean after brushing the sides. It took six times to clean the qvevri.

So the qvevri had no crud in it and it was clean. A final step before adding grapes was to  fill the qvevri with sulfur dioxide gas. I used a two-inch strip of sulfur paper attached to a coat hanger sized wire. The paper was lit and lowered into the qvevri to burn, releasing the sulphur gas. It only took a moment to fill the qvevri with the gas. The qvevri was covered, awaiting the arrival of the grapes.

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August 2022