Amphora
: Modern usage

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Partly inspired by the likes of Gravner in friuli, and traditional winemaking techniques in Georgia (see qvevri ), winemakers have been experimenting with fermentation and ageing in modern copies of amphorae, made from clay or, occasionally, concrete. Concrete may provide a less oxidative environment and is easier to use and maintain but the level of oxygenation depends more on the size of the vessel and the width of the opening, and how it is sealed. Winemakers may design their own shapes. The more typical amphora shape, with a narrow base, allows less lees contact and better settling and results typically in more vibrant wines than those whose shape is closer to that of concrete eggs, which tend to produce richer wines. Amphorae are generally free-standing in a cellar but some producers bury them, emulating Georgian traditions. Small amphorae with narrow necks are particularly difficult to clean. Ideally the pores of the clay should be very fine, giving a smooth surface that is easier to clean and does not need to be epoxy-lined. Some producers such as Ch Pontet-Canet in Pauillac, which ages its wine in a blend of amphorae, tronconic vats, and barriques, even mix fragments of gravel or crushed limestone from their vineyards into the concrete during the production process so as to maximize the possible local footprint on the resulting wine. Others use local clay. See also tinaja.