For over six thousand years superlative wine has been made with Qvevri (pronounced ‘kwevry’). These are the huge clay pots built to contain hundreds or sometimes thousands of litres of wine. The enormous vessels are filled with juice, sealed with beeswax, and buried in the cool and stable environment the earth provides for fermentation.
The conical design helps to sift debris down to the point at the base. For this reason wine made in a Qvevri typically requires no further fining or filtering. The ceramic material of the Qvevri also imparts virtually no flavor to the wine within, allowing all the subtleties of flavor in the fruit to be highlighted.
The country of Georgia in the Caucasus region of Eurasia has the oldest tradition of Qvevri wine-making in the world. Unfortunately, here the future of the Qvevri hangs somewhat precariously upon the skills of a small community of aging artisans who struggle to keep this ancient wine-making tradition alive.
The offspring of a marriage between Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc is an expressive, aromatic, and delicately earthy
varietal typically used by California vintners to add a hint of violets, a wisp of spice, or a touch of tobacco to their Bordeaux-style blends. In France, the varietal is more broadly planted, particularlly in the region of Libournais and the sub-region around the villages of Pomerol and St.Emillion, where it is known as Bouchet.
In Italy’s Friuli region Cabernet Franc reigns supreme as the most popular red varietal, and in Tuscany, where it is used as part of several renowned “Super Tuscan” blends, it is grown with thrice the frequency of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lighter-bodied and less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc offers more floral aromas and, on occasion, an earthy dried-herbal character. Other notable features include the ability to reflect the terroir of a vineyard with palatable particularity. When grown, for example, at higher altitudes, the grape will often express the minerality found in the rocky soil. This subtle hint of slate or graphite endows the otherwise delicate and floral varietal with the “stones” to stand up to the earthy flavors of, say, grilled meats or roasted root vegetables. Mountain-grown Cabernet Franc, therefore, is some of the most desirable.