Ancient Georgian Technique Comes to Dr. Frank’s

When Ukrainian winery founder, Dr. Konstantin Frank, began planting grapes on the west side of Keuka Lake in the late 1950’s, he made sure to plant the ancient Georgian varieties Rkatsiteli and Saperavi.  Konstantin viewed these varieties as treasured links to his homeland where these varieties were also grown.  Over the years, these ancient varieties have helped set the Dr. Frank winemaking portfolio apart.  This year, our winemaking team aims to take the production of Rkatsiteli in particular, to a whole new level by embracing one of Georgia’s most traditional winemaking techniques.

Amphoras Come to Dr. Frank’s

One of our winemaking philosophies is that a combination of tradition and innovation are key to the production of world class wines.  As far as traditional winemaking techniques go, it does not get much more traditional than the use of an amphora, also known as a “quevri” (clay pot) in the Georgian language.  Our winemaking team plans to create a very traditional style Georgian Rkatsiteli through the use of amphoras.


Rather than burying the amphoras in the ground as is the tradition in Georgia, our team will keep ours in a temperature controlled building.  Our team’s goal is to use the traditional “orange” wine technique already being used for the Dr. Frank Amber Rkatsiteli alongside the use of an amphora for a 12 month period of time.  When the 2017 Amber Rkatsiteli is finished this year, it will be the most traditional style Georgian wine ever produced in the Finger Lakes region.

The Effect of an Amphora on Rkatsiteli

Similar to a wine barrel, amphoras cause micro-oxygenation, which concentrates the wine more.  And since an amphora is shaped like an oval, it keeps the wine and lees constantly moving and in suspension.  Interestingly, an amphora is usually toasted inside 3-4 times, which creates a layer like beeswax.  This beeswax-like layer adds additional protection to the wine ensuring that the wine does not seep through the porous clay of the amphora.

Unlike a wine barrel, an amphora does not actually impart any flavors to the wine.  What an amphora does provide, however, is roundness, mouthfeel and concentration.  An amphora softens the flavors of Rkatsiteli as well as its tannins.  In summation, most of the flavors in the wine come from the grape itself, but an amphora adds to the flavors’ concentration and complexity.

One of the most fascinating aspects of an amphora is that is has no shelf life and in theory can be used forever.  In fact, there are Georgian amphoras in the ground that are still being used today from over 6,000 years ago.

Wondering when you can taste our 2017 Amber Rkatsiteli?  Like all good wines, time is of the essence and the wine will be released after its 12 months are completed in our amphoras.