A used Kvevri on the grounds at Castle Hill Cider

Castle Hill Cider uses two methods to make cider. The first is industry standard — tried and true. Using American-made apple presses and apples grown in nearby Virginia counties, the cider is fermented in tanks from Germany. This year, three types of cider will be produced in these vats.

The second method is influenced by the old world and might be considered the extreme craft approach. Less than a dozen wineries still use this method for making wine. This February, we “planted” terracotta vessels called kvevri in the earth just east of The Linden Grove. Kvevri are the original vessels in which humanity first created wine some 7,000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains. This general region of the world is the birthplace of wine making, grape cultivation, and apple cultivation. It is likely that this was also the birthplace of cider making.

We needed to bury our kvevri deeper to create an insulated conduit down to the vessels.  Below the frost line, the earth’s temperature is maintained at a constant and relatively cool level. At this low temperature, fermentation proceeds slowly.

For more information about kvevri, visit www.kvevri.org.

(1/5) Upside down kvevri rests beside the excavation site in the Linden Grove. Each kvevri stands 6' tall and holds 500 gallons. (2/5) First, sand was poured to provide drainage. A natural ramp was formed to roll the kvevri into place. (3/5) Each kvevri was rolled slowly on its side down the ramp. Once all were in place, the ramp was filled with earth. (4/5) After rolling the kvevri and setting them upright, Stuart Madany, Production Manager (left), makes sure kvevri are level. (5/5) John Rhett, General Manager, stands among the kvevri as they are buried. Great care was taken to tamp the earth down and around each one.