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In The Winery

                 Amphorae are generally free-standing, but
               some winemakers bury their vessels according to
               Georgian customs. Fermentation and maturation
               times will vary depending on the winemaker’s
               goals. In Georgia, they leave the qvevri under-
               ground to ferment for at least five months before
               being decanted and bottled. According to some
               experts, fermentation in amphora can take longer,
               resulting in a higher extraction level. Wines aged
               in amphora tend to mature faster, too, because of
               the micro-oxygenation. Both red and white wines
               can be vinified in amphora, with whole grapes
               stemmed or destemmed.

                 Amphora wines are especially popular among
               proponents of biodynamic winemaking, who prefer
               minimal intervention and a natural approach to viti-
               culture and viniculture. Since these wines are unfil-
               tered, the process appeals to fans of natural wine
               and winemaking. Also, the sustainability of the
               amphora, compared to wood or steel tanks, offers
               an environmentally and financially advantage: On
               average, wood barrels must be replaced every four
               to five years, but clay amphora can last decades, if
               not centuries.

                 So how do these wines taste? Because the wines
               fermented and aged in amphora are exposed to
               more air, they have a deep, rich texture. The pres-
               ence of oxygen also softens tannins and accelerates
               tertiary aromas of nuts, baked fruit and chocolate.
               Clay is a neutral container, so wines show less oxi-
               dation than their oak-aged counterparts. They also
               show less reduction than wines aged in stainless
               steel. Generally, tasters say wines have an elevated
               expression of fruit, open with a bright quality and
               close with a long and rich finish.

                 While we are seeing a quiet revolution of ferment-
               ing and aging in amphora, there is no “one size
               fits all” to the containers because of regional and
               historical differences. The vessels come in a wide
               range of sizes and shapes. Most are made with
               clay, including terracotta. Others may be made with
               sandstone and concrete, but they are usually not
               referred to as “amphora.” Traditionally, amphorae
               were hand-made, and most still are today, either
               by the winemakers themselves or through specific
               amphorae producers.

               877-892-5332                       The Grapevine • May - June 2022                                Page 7

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