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About Alaverdi Monastery Cellar

Winegrowers: Bishop David and the monks of Alaverdi Monastery

Alaverdi, Kakheti (Georgia)

HISTORY OF THE MONASTERY The Alaverdi Eparchy was the principal and one of the most extensive christian floks of Kakheti. In addition to the central regions of Kakheti, there were also Tusheti, Pshaveli and Khevsureti.
The Alaverdi Cathedral is located on the Alazani Valley, near the village Alaverdi (Akhmeta region), 20 km from Telavi. There, in the middle of the 6-th century was founded a monastery, by on of the thirteen Sirian fathers Joseph, who is buried here.
In Kakhetian principality (the 8-th -10-th centuries) Alaverdi was the main church and place of worship. Presumably, the Alaverdi monastery was turned into the Episcopalian Cathedral in the first quater of the 11-th century, when the King of Heret-Kakheti Kvirike III (1009-1037) in the Place of small church os St.George erected a big Cathedral. The founding of the Episcopates in Georgia was initeated usually by the building of Cathedrals. For the first time the Bishop of Alaverdi is mentioned in the sources at the time of David the Builder. From the 13-th century on, they are honoured as the Archbishops. In the period of political disintegration of Georgia (the 15-th - 18-th centureis) the Bishop of Alaverdi - Amba of Alaverdi, who was granted the honour of Metropolitan, was in fact the head of the church in the Kingdom of Kakheti. The title "Amba" was given to the Bishops of Alavedi, because they were heads of a monastery as well. The existing documents show the special position occupied by the Bishops of Alavedi and the respect with which Kings of Kakheti treated them.
From the beginning the monastery was founded in the Alavedi, where the monks lived and worked. in the 17-th - 18-th centuries it was turned into the nunnery. There aslo lived the members of the Royal family, who had taken the monastic vows.
The Alavedi Cathedral was damaged over and over by the attacks of enemies and earthquakes.
Despite several restorations, the Church retained its original forms. It is a strict, harmoniously built monument of grand spaces and integral composition. Its construction is a triconque, crsoslike building with a central dome. It is built with a cobble-stone and revetted by yellowish quadras. Formarly the roof was covered with blue glazed tiling. After the cleaning of the walls inside the Cathedral several layers of murals of the 11-th, the 15-th and the 17-th centuries were discovered.
Alaverdi, as the pricnipal Church of Kakheti, was the burial-place of the King of Kakheti. The Alaverdi Cathedral was one of the powerfull cultural -educational centers. Presumably, there were many weiters, scribes of manuascripts and bookbinders.
The Monastery of Alaverdi there was quite a large Library, where manuscripts copied there, whre manuscripts copied there, or elsewhere were kept.

"Kakhetian" vinification method
After pressing, the must is poured in the qvevri (Georgian terracotta vessels), and with it the so-called chacha, that is, the marcs (skins, peduncles, pips, stalks). As a rule, the chacha is added entirely, but sometimes the winegrower decide to throw a portion of it away (for example the green, immature parts, the stems). It depends on the quality of the grapes and the character of the wine that they intend to produce.

During the alcoholic fermentation, which usually lasts about 10 days, the qvevri remains uncovered in order to "immerse" the "cap" of marcs that floats above the wine several times a day, allowing the release of polyphenols and other compounds contained in the skins, pips, and stalks. By burying the amphora, the temperature of fermentation is maintained relatively low, around 20 ° C, without any other special interventions.

At the end of the fermentation process, the solid grape dregs sink to the bottom making it possible to fill the qvevri through the aperture at the mouth, and covering loosely with a lid, in order to allow the evaporation of the excess carbon dioxide, during the malolactic fermentation. Only after the yeasts and bacteria cease all activity (usually after mid-December) the qvevri is sealed. The lid is sealed with clay or wax and buried under a layer of soil or sand to ensure a better thermal insulation. For another 3 or 4 months, the wine matures in contact with the chacha and the yeasts that died after the fermentation. This process takes place at a relatively constant temperature between 12 and 15°C, which is also possible because the qvevri is buried underground. Meantime the wine is enriched with a series of substances deriving mainly from the skins, peduncles, and the lees.
However, the pips, which are the first to settle at the bottom after fermentation, thanks to the fusiform shape of the amphora have only limited contact with the wine, which prevents the excessive release of the bitter tannins.

In March or April, the wine is taken from above the sediments and is transferred in a clean qvevri. Here, a second sediment is deposited rather quickly on the bottom, and in about two months (usually between May and June) the wine is poured back into another clean qvevri, but this time it is fully clarified. It is customary to allow the wine to mature in qvevri for an additional 2 to 3 years, but it can also age for over 20 years. Through the porous walls of the clay qvevri, during maturation, in spite of the hermetic closure a slow oxidation of the wine occurs, but also a limited evaporation. Therefore, about every fifteen days the level should be checked and if necessary top it up, so that the amphora is always full to the brim.

The wines produced using the traditional kakhetian method are completely different from any other white wines produced in the world. The first intriguing thing is the color, dark, almost orange, between tea and amber, sometimes with a pinkish tinge. However, the trait that really sets them apart is the high content of polyphenolic compounds, extremely rare in other white wines, which often exceeds 2,000 mg/l. This content is rather typical for lighter red wines, but in the European white wines the polyphenols rarely reach 300 mg/l.
Researches shows that the source of polyphenols is mainly found in the seeds (around 47%) and peduncles (42%) and only a small part in the skins (about 11%). It seems that this absolutely unique technology of long maceration of white wines with peduncles has a crucial influence on the character of the traditional Kakheti wines. The peduncles are the source of the valuable flavonoids, and enrich the wine with several aromatic compounds (complex esters, aldehydes, terpenes, aromatic alcohol etc.).
The high content of polyphenolic compounds makes the traditional Kakheti wines relatively insensitive to oxidation and unfavorable changes in microbiological conditions (mainly due to the antiseptic qualities of the flavonoids), which allows, among other things, to limit sulphuring of the wine.
Researchers also emphasize the beneficial and prophylactic qualities of these wines, comparable to those of red wines.

Alaverdi Monastery Cellar

Alaverdi Monastery Cellar

Kakheti · Georgia

Winegrowers: Bishop David and the monks of Alaverdi Monastery

Alaverdi, Kakheti (Georgia)

HISTORY OF THE MONASTERYThe Alaverdi Eparchy was the principal and one of the most extensive christian floks of Kakheti. In addition to the central regions of ... (keep reading)

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