Ageing and storing wine in amphorae is an art which dates back thousands of years to the early days of winemaking. Throughout the ancient world, winemakers of yore fermented and allowed their wines to age in these clay vessels. Recognising the high-quality of wines this production method produces, winemakers everywhere from Italy to Portugal, the US, Australia, and beyond are embracing this hallowed technique used by their forefathers.
The roots of amphora winemaking lie in Caucasus region, in Georgia. This country is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world and archaeologists have unearthed amphorae, locally known as kvevri, which were first used by the ancient Georgians to make their wine. They developed the technique of macerating, fermenting, ageing, and storing wine in these large earthenware vessels some 8,000 years ago. They buried these massive clay pots in the earth to help prevent temperatures from creeping up too high and halting fermentation. Today, the kvevri are still used in Georgia to make the traditional wines of the region.
The use of these earthenware vessels spread across the ancient world to Egypt, Greece, Rome, and beyond. They were used to age, store, and transport wine as well as other goods such as olive oil, grain, olives, and fish. The lightweight, strong clay used to make the vessels were perfect for storing and shipping across empires. The ability to form a tight seal around the lid using beeswax or resin also ensured the contents of the amphorae didn’t spoil.
For wine, nothing could surpass the amphorae as a means for ageing wine during Antiquity. While the wines might take on the complex, nutty aromas synonymous with an oxidative ageing process, they would remain deliciously drinkable by the time they reached their destination. Amphorae containing wine, such as the ones we use at Vinum Hadrianum, were shipped all over the Roman Empire to much acclaim.
Many modern winemakers across the world’s great wine regions have chosen to craft their wines using this ancient technique with Italy being recognised as a leader of this style. Although many other countries produce amphora wines, it was the Italian versions of this style that were the first to receive praise from wine experts and began to be collected by connoisseurs.
Making wine in amphorae is a virtually unrivalled means to produce wine in a non-interventionist way, allowing the aromas and flavours of the grape to show their best. This is an ideal style for wine purists who value experiencing the natural characteristics of a grape variety. Take a sip of history and discover the power and elegance of amphora wine.