An amphora is a container shaped like a vase, typically made of clay, often used in ancient civilizations to transport liquids and dried goods. They vary in size and traditionally include two handles, a narrow neck, wide body and pointed bottom. Amphoras have been used to ferment and carry wine by many cultures, from China to Georgia, Armenia, Israel, Egypt, Rome and Greece. The earliest examples date back to 7,000 BC in the Hunan province of China, where they were used to ferment rice, honey, and various fruits. In the country of Georgia, researchers have found vessels dating back to 4,000 BC and discovered they were often buried to protect the product form being stolen during enemy invasions. Amphoras go by many names: talha in Portugal, orci in Italy, quevri in Georgia, and tinaja in Spain.
The use of amphoras for winemaking and ageing, for white and red wines, has been making a comeback in recent years. Clay vessels are less porous than oak barrels but still allow some oxygen contact, adding texture to the wine and softening harsh tannins without imparting flavor. They also maintain stable, cool temperature suitable for a slow development of the wine.
Bodegas Arizcuren in Rioja produces a 100% Mazuelo (Cariñena) aged in amphora for eight months, bursting with black fruit flavors and subtle earthiness. Enjoy a bottle, travel back in time, and be sure that this ancient winemaking vessel is here to stay for a while.
Author: Maytte Rivera