Back to the Future with Clay

By June 2, 2014Winemakers

I’m looking for the right proverb here… the more things evolve, the more they revert to the original; or history repeats itself; we’ve tried the new, now we revert to the tried and true.

After reading this blog, you may have your own suggestion so please share.

I’ve seen the future and it seems a lot like the past. My recent foray into the Republic of Georgia brought me face to face with the

Qvevri at Khareba Winery

Qvevri at Khareba Winery

original process of winemaking dating back some 8,000 years. For this reason Georgia has been called “The Cradle of Wine Civilization” by non other than Hugh Johnson.

Winemakers there have continued the centuries old technique of fermenting and aging wine in huge buried clay amphorae called qvevri. Mind you, these are un-lined, uncoated clay amphorae and the current belief is that this is the most natural process for making pure, unadulterated wine.

I’ve seen similar atavistic techniques in other parts of the world: France, Italy Argentina and elsewhere, only these are called “eggs.” Fashioned in concrete, they are also uncoated. Salvatore Zuccardi, one of the pioneers of this technique in Mendoza, believes it’s the best way to produce his individual terroir malbecs.

In Georgia, the practice of keeping some skins in the amphorae during aging creates unusual tastes and colors to the uninitiated palate: orange hue whites and black reds. Even the tastes are much different than what we’ve been accustomed to. The fruitiness is in the background and an earthy aroma and flavor predominate.

I’m not saying that I’ve been converted to the new style. But as you visit “cutting edge” wineries, keep looking for the concrete eggs, maybe even amphorae. This is back to the future in winemaking technology.

You can see additional photos from our tour to Georgia on our website.

concrete egg at Abet y Noia  Spain

concrete egg at Abet y Noia Spain

Author Vin Marottoli

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