Wine made in clay vessels? Sure, in ancient times! But today? Yes! Commonly called amphora, wine made in clay vessels are made around the world in modern times. This month the Wine Pairing weekend crew of wine writers are exploring this topic and you can scroll down to see the list of exciting titles with links to participants who will be posting by Sat. August 14 at 8am — just in time for our twitter chat on the subject using the hashtag #winepw. Find the discussion questions below.
Wine made in Amphora goes by many names
- in Portugal as Talha
- in Italy as Anfore, orci or giare
- in Georgia as Quevri
- in Spain as Tinaja
Portugal has continuously made wine in amphora since Roman times and before!
Over 2000 years ago, the Romans made wine in amphorae in their province of Portugal, which they called Lusitania, after Bachus’s son Lusus; in an 1876 text, the Portuguese called it “Roman system.”
Evidence suggests Phoenicians brought the use of amphora to Portugal 1000 years earlier, making the Alentejo one of two regions in the world to make wine this way continuously, and the only place in Portugal where it’s made in this manner today.
In Portugal, these large clay vessels are called talhas de barro. Standing as tall as seven-feet, they hold up to 520 gallons of wine and literally weigh a ton! Because making these is a lost art, many in use are over 100 years old and carefully preserved.
People in the Alentejo are proud of taking care of their heritage — from amphora to literature to the land. Alentejo’s capital Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring excellent examples of 16th century Portuguese architecture as well as Roman aqueducts and other relics.
In 2015, the Wines of Alentejo’s Sustainability Program (WASP), launched using data from the International Wine Organization (OIV) to adopt and adapt sustainability practices from in California and Chile. The volunteer program represents nearly 50% of Alentejo’s vineyard area. Developed with input from the University of Évora, the Alentejo Winegrowers Technical Association, and individual Alentejo grape growers and wineries, WASP depends pn three pillars: environmental, social, and financial stability.
2019 Herdade Do Rocim Amphora Alentejo DOC
BLEND 50% Moreto, 30% Tinta Grossa, 15% Trincadeira, 5% Aragonez
No temperature control! Wild yeast! Amphora!
Color: Very dense, looks unfiltered and unfined, ruby, looks youthful, looks very purple when pouring into the glass, hot pink rim, fushia rim
Nose: Very vegetal when first opened, bell pepper, green bean, jalapeno pepper jam. Sue loves that smell much more than I do, and she couldn’t get enough! As it opens up, celery, black cherry, blue fruit.
Palate: Cherries, blue fruit, jalapeno pepper jelly, very very dry, rich tannins from the grapes, not from added oak, medium bodied, not heavy at all, light and airy.
Pairings: Sue wanted chicken mole, I wanted Bbq chicken, we both thought street tacos would be great with the wine.
TAPAS: Great with Spanish ham: the wine brings out sweetness in the ham, and the ham brings out sweetness in the wine, chorizo, Marcona almonds, loves the creaminess of Basque cheese. Spanish goat milk cheese was very interesting with the wine. Sue loved the castravino olives with the wine because it brings out all of the vegetal notes.
BASQUE GRILLED BLACK COD with roasted vegetables: black cod is a rich rich and grilling it also brought out more rich flavors. The roasted vegetables also worked well with the wine.
The Portugeuse eat more seafood than anyone else in Europe except people from Iceland. A wine like this you wouldn’t think to pair with seafood, but try clams or mussels prepared with pork. This combo of seafood and pork is one of the Alentejo’s most distinctive dishes.
Tomato, pepper, sweetcorn, beans and pumpkin came back to Portugal with the Conquistadors from Mexico as well as potato from Peru. Cozido, another national dish made of meat, cabbage and other vegetables with lamb raised on the Alentejo plains would also pair well with this wine as porco preto (black pork), wild pigs fattened on acorns from the ubiquitous cork oak trees.
What will my compadres in Wine Pairing come up with? Join our chat at 8am Pacific on Saturday August 14 and check out their articles:
- From Camilla M. Mann: Hundred Suns Wine’s Amphora-Aged Gamay Noir, Flame-Grilled Foods, and Our First Post-Pandemic Dinner Party on Culinary Adventures with Camilla / http://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com/
- From Terri Oliver Steffes: A Surprising Find: Amphora Wines in Temecula, California on Our Good Life | https://www.terristeffes.com
- From Andrea Lemieux: Küp Calm & Pair on: Turkish Amphora Wines on The Quirky Cork / https://thequirkycork.com
- From Wendy Klik: Tomato and Eggplant Tian paired with Two Amphora Wines from Portugal on A Day in the Life on the Farm/ https://adayinthelifeonthefarm.blogspot.com/
- From David Crowley: “Tasting and Pairing Amphora Wines” on Cooking Chat / https://cookingchatfood.com/
- From Jeff Burrows on Food Wine Click!: A Clay-Made Dinner: Ceramic Grill and Amphora Wine / https://foodwineclick.com/
- From Nicole Ruiz Hudson on Somm’s Table: The Mind-Bending Wines of Golden Cluster
- Susannah Gold: “Memories of My First Amphora Aged Wine from Josko Gravner”
- From us on Wine Predator: “Made in Clay From Near and Far, Wine and Food” http://winepredator.com
All are welcome to participate in our #WinePW August #Amphora twitter chat. All times Pacific. Remember to include the hashtag #WinePW.
- Q1 8am Welcome to the #WinePW chat on #Amphora Wine! Introduce yourself please! Where are you tweeting from? Share a link to your website!
- Q2 805a Long before wine was made in oak barrels and stainless steel, people shaped clay into fermentation vessels which they buried in the earth. Was this ancient method new or familiar to you? Share a link if you’ve written about #amphora wine before. #WinePW
- Q3 810a Today this ancient method is made around the world. Names include:
Italy: Anfore, orci or giare
Was it hard finding a clay fermented wine? Where did your wine come from and what is it called there? #WinePW
- Q4 815a What did you learn about wine made in #Amphora that surprised you? #WinePW
- Q5 820a Tell us more about the wine you chose. Red? White? Both? Link? #WinePW
- Q6 825a How is wine made in #amphora different to you than other fermentation methods? #WinePW
- Q7 830a How did your pair your #Amphora wine? Did you do a dish traditional to the region or inspired by it? Please share pictures. #WinePW
- Q8 835a How did your #Amphora wine pairing turn out? #WinePW
- Q9 840a What did you learn about pairing food with wine made in #Amphora? What food pairing will you try next time? #WinePW
- Q10 845a So be honest: are you a fan of wine made in #Amphora or is just for wine geeks? Why? #WinePW
- Q11 850a Will you seek out more clay fermented wine? #WinePW
- Q12 855a Shout out to participants and open discussion time! Any questions? What else did you learn about #amphora you’d like to share? #WinePW
- Q13 9a Thank you for joining the #WinePW chat on #Amphora Wine from Around the World. On the second Saturday in September, please join @artpredator again for #organic Wine. Learn more here: https://wp.me/pj3XZ-7XG