Back in June 2015, I crossposted an article concerning the revival of a Georgian Wine that had not been made in nearly 2000 years. The wine itself was interesting but the process of putting the container into the ground was intriguing because it was our first real “Geothermal Winery”. It was a random piece of information that I tucked away, and then several weeks ago I found information concerning a similair technique done in Rome but for the absolute opposite reason and I was amazed.
When Roman Youths went to serve their time in the military, they were given wine mixed with water as a beverage to drink on a day to day basis. (2) This particular Wine was pretty much a combination of any grapes they could get a hold of and throw into the fermenting vessel. It was a young wine and the color was described as being a “Golden Wine” of fair quality. They needed to produce large quantities of this wine and the weather didn’t always cooperate. Rome summers were terribly hot and these temperatures were not conducive to wine production. Thus the “Dolium” was invented. This is basicly a large clay vessel that’s lined with pitch and buried into the ground up to it’s neck so that only the lid is above ground. For the Romans, it was a way to cool the wine down to keep it from spoiling and still have easy access to the contents. Many of the villas had them as part of the estate grounds both for storage and vintning purposes.
Towards the bottom of the container (some of which were 10ft below the grounds surface, the temperature was always within a 50-60 degree range which would have been ideal for grapes to be turned into wine.
Back in Georgia, the Kvevri or Qvevri (3) was set into the ground and in the fall before winter, the grapes were loaded in and let sit for the entire winter. While the temperatures above ground could drop to brutally cold levels, again the ground maintained a comfortable temperature for the grapes to ferment over the winter, long and slow. Bacteria is kept at bay and the yeasts get a slow long meal that ultimately improves the quality of the wine.
As you can see these are very large containers and had to be maintained. The Roman Doliums would be lined with pitch/resin to help seal the inside of the container from harmful bacteria in the soil and also waterproof the vessel so none of the wine would leak out. The Qvevri were lined with beeswax for the same reasons. Roman wine would have had a more acidic or tannic taste while the beeswax in the Qvevri would make the Georgian Wines sweeter. Each year after the last of the wine had been removed, someone would have to get inside and clean out the remaining dregs of the wine, scrub off the last years resin/beeswax and reapply a new layer before a new batch of wine could be started. there’s a very good chance that if the process was done while the pitch/wax was still hot, it could help kill any remaining bacteria before the next batch of wine was started.
It is my hope to purchase a food grade barrel, incorporate some clay and (pitch or Wax) and bury it in the backyard over the winter of 2018 to create this same kind of wine. Looking forward to the results.