Amorim Tasting: Taking Clay Makes the Wines Shine

The natural relationship between clay and wine extends beyond the water-retention abilities and agreeable pH levels that make clay soils conducive to viticulture. For close on 2 700 years clay has been used to make vessels for the fermentation and holding of wine. Since those first dubious drops of grape juice were poured into clay pots by the winemakers of ancient Greece, Georgia and Rome, the containers have hardly changed in shape and size. Amphorae, as they are known, are today not only eye-catching aesthetic complements to wineries the world over, but represent a modern vinous movement aimed at capturing the natural purity of fermenting and fermented wine.

One of the world’s oldest winemaking countries, Portugal is a leader in the amphora movement. Pedro Ribeiro, cellarmaster at Herdade do Rocim in Alentejo, deems clay amphora as being conducive to Hardade do Rocim’s philosophy of pure, minimum-intervention winemaking. And to prove his point, Pedro recently travelled to South Africa and during his stay was requested by fellow Portuguese Joaquim Sá, MD of Amorim South Africa, to host a tasting of Portuguese wines made in amphorae. Not only wines from Herdade do Rocim, but also from other Portuguese amphora acolytes that have of late helped to make their country one of the world’s most revered wine nations.

Winemakers and journalists converged on the Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Franschhoek to taste the selection Pedro had put together. Some of these winemakers were already using amphorae, others are considering it, some had hardly heard about the clay vessels in modern-day winemaking.

But during the tasting, everyone was amazed.

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