Wine is one of the greatest things we make among the Mediterranean coast and even with my Spanish and Italian background I tend not to consider one wine better than another just because of the provenance. Having travelled a lot I can say that you’ll be able to find incredible wines everywhere: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Germany, Moldova, Turkey, Lebanon, Georgia, just to write a few European countries…
Usually wines are produced with fairly similar methods, the grapes are harvested from August till October, the fermentation process is done in iron vats and, if aged, the most common thing would be the use of oak barrels.
However, there’s now a tendency towards the re-discovery of ancient methods and the one that really caught my attention a few years ago was using amphorae to ferment and age wine.
In an article appeared on La Repubblica (E. Dusi. “Scoperto il vino più antico del mondo.” 13th of November 2017 Web. ed.) we find out that researchers from the University of Milan, the University of Toronto and the National Museum of Tiblisi discovered on the Neolithic settlement of Gadachrili Gora (Georgia) rests of wine in pieces of clay pots dated around 6000 BC. Nonetheless, amphorae, as we know them today, appear on the Syrian-Palestine area around the second millennia BC: the novelty was its tapered shape, convex base and the handles, all of them characteristics that made it more structurally stable (compared for instance with flat bottomed pots): “There can be no doubt that, in the history of the design of large containers for transport, the introduction of the pointed based vessel represents quite a technological revolution.”(P.J. Parr, 1973, pág. 177).[
The advantages of making wine and ageing it in amphorae is that it gets a micro-oxygenation, avoiding the development of tannins (polyphenols responsible for the astringency or dryness in mouth), vanillin and toasted notes usually given by the oak barrels: the resulting wine will be mellow in flavour, much more mineral and fresh!
As a wine lover, I got to try an amphora wine for the first time in the Bodega Bonavista (Carrer de Bonavista, 10, Barcelona), where they made small batches of red wine thanks to Chris Grennes (Norwegian sommelier) with red Grenache grapes from Òdena (Igualada, Catalunya). With that in mind I’ve been searching since then for winemakers that have recovered this ancient method of production, but also potters that are mixing old techniques with new materials…
Drunk Turtle: is an Italian potter that makes jars for winemakers, some in cocciopesto, others in cement. Cocciopesto is a material derived from the mix of crushed bricks, stone fragments, sand, cement and water, this is the most similar material to the one used by Romans to produce amphorae; we have news of this material in the tractate by Vitruvio “De Architectura”.
Tinajas Moreno Leon: Spanish pottery from Cáceres that have been in the business for generations producing jars for fermentation. In this case, they use clay.
Bodega Luis Pérez: Luis Pérez is a professor of Oenology and Food Technology by the University of Cádiz, in his winery he created the wine called “Vino Garum Submarino”, this wine is not just fermented in amphorae, but it’s also aged beneath the sea. This process, known since Roman times consists in leave the sealed amphorae in the sea bed (about 12 meters deep); this allows the wine to be aged at a constant temperature and in almost total absence of light.
Wineries from DO Empordá: La Vinyeta, Gelamá, Viñas de Olivardots and Gerisena are just some of the wineries producing amphorae wines.
Bernabé Navarro: produces white wine in amphorae in Alicante.
Josep Mitjans: makes four different wines (two whites, two reds), the first one was made using white Xarello grapes in 2012.
Alta Alella: organic and biodynamic winery from the DO Alella (Catalunya) that produces amphorae wines of excellent quality.[
Slow Food Editor: the Slow Wine guide contains numerous winemakers producing amphorae wines from Italy.
There’s nowadays a great number of winemakers producing this type of
wine which is great if you don’t fancy persistent and strong flavours: try them
if you have the chance, you won’t regret it!!!