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Amphora Wines

I am delighted to have at last secured an allocation of Thierry Germain’s 2019 Saumur-Champigny that is macerated in amphora. When I visited the domaine Thierry had just completed digging the earth in order to fit these amazing vessels.

Has anyone else had any experience drinking wines made in amphora? Would like to know what they thought.

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No, but I’d like to know what you think. Sounds like you have been trying to get an allocation for a while, presume it’s in demand. How large are the vessels and why does he chose to use them?

Edit, just read this, is it the same wine?

I’ve had skin contact Mtsvane made in clay Qveri from Georgia , it was a joy to drink .

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I had some from amphora alongside the same juice but from barrel in Napa. They pretty much tasted the same. But that’s true of a lot of Napa Cabernet… :rofl:

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I visited Thierry Germain last year, and was fortunate to visit his underground maze. I don’t recall seeing his amphoras (or him mentioning them), but after all, this really feels huge down there.
Looking forward to try these one day. I’d be very curious to read your notes when the time comes.

My only experience of amphoras was when drinking fruit forward Georgian wines. I’ve understood these vessels to be neutral, but maybe that the mouthfeel gets richer as a consequence of contact with the porous clay?

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Yes Veronica Ortega Mencia
Sebastien David’s Hulabulu
Ismael Gozalo’s whites
Ortega’s wines stood out as gorgeous Gozalo’s were a bit tough going, David’s OK but not brilliant.
Oh and the one and only Josko Gravner’s Ribolla. Unique, extraordinary, quite unlike any wine I have ever had. Memorable.

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When I was last in Bordeaux we stopped in at Larrivet-Haut-Brion. The grand vin was pretty mediocre (although for some reason they gave us the 2013 to try, so maybe it’s a lot better, but I am not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt), but they’ve started fermenting and ageing their second wine in terracotta. Given that I am really not a fan of their wines, I am torn as to whether to give it a go, but I am interested.

TWS used to sell a spanish field blend called Cullerot that was aged in Amphorae that was a good sitting in the sun or with a plate of grilled prawns wine.

Of course I’ve also had plenty of those Central Asian/Eastern European/Northern Italian oddities, some of which have been mindblowingly good (and others as bad as you’d think they would be).

I was very impressed with Tillingham’s Qvevri wine - although it’s expensive for what it is. Definitely an area I’d like to explore more

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I enjoyed skin-contact Georgian Rkatsiteli from M&S a few times. Really unique, spicy and rather unusual flavours, which were quite exciting, but not the sort of wine I can drink too often - though no doubt there are far better examples out there.

We also had a community tasting way back, which included this Portuguese red, partially fermented in a traditional Portuguese amphora (called Talha, I believe?):

It was very good, especially considering it was just over a tenner.

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My wine life was transformed in 2019 during a 2 week visit to Georgia. Having long since drunk up all the treasures I brought back I now actively seek out resupplies from intermediaries such as Taste of Georgia & Tannico. Skin-macerated white (amber) wines fermented and matured in Qvevris are essentially a fifth dimension; wine Jim, but not as we know it. For wine travellers looking for escape from this lockdown I would put Georgia on the pinnacle of any bucket list.

Cue show-off pics from that trip…

Sampling just-decanted Qvevri-fermented kisi at Tanini with members of the Vasadze family

With Shota Lagadzidze in his qvevri cellar near Alaverdi monastery, and some amber mtsvane from therein


and finally this is Artem Parsegyhan with his Karas fermenters at Trinity Canyon, Vayots Dzor region, Armenia, and a memorable tasting of his amber wines

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I have had few qvevri wines. This was my favourite from Taste of Georgia.


G Vino 2018

Orange peel and marzipan. Complex and long. Fantastic. An amber wine for people who don’t like too much funk in their wines.

Quality: 4/4

Price: 2/3

X factor/ interest: 3/3

Total: 9/10

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Eben Sadie in South Africa has been using amphorae for his whites for a little while now I believe, not exclusively but in addition to concrete and old wood.

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And here’s the man himself, Vakhtang Khutsaidze. Young, enthusiastic, independent small operation. Just outside Telavi town in the heart of the Khaketi region.

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I too have had my wine-life, and to an extent the rest of my life, transformed by a couple of trips to Georgia.

I will not say that I like all the Georgian wines I have tried, which have been mainly artisan qvevri wines, which actually represent a very small percent of the total commercial production of the country.

Generally I find I really like them or I really don’t, and I am coming down to accepting that there are few guiding principles - the variation seems to be at qvevri and bottle level. But on the whole I have enjoyed the ride, and it has reset - broadened - my view on what wine is about.

I am sure some a lot of other wines made in clay are more reliable. I am guessing it is common practice in most places to blend the contents of fermenting/aging vessels (whetever they are made of) in large tanks prior to bottling.

The M&S Rkatsiteli is as good a place as any to start with Georgian qvevri wine, but I’m not sure I would say it, or any other wine, is typical of Georgia. Imagine trying one wine from France to arrive at a view on French wines, or even a subclass of all French wines. Although made in qvevri, the M&S one comes from a large producer, and I think it is quite consistent, and pretty good for the price. You can pay a lot more and get both better and worse wines .

Also, the Waitrose Orovela Saperavi is very good, though not made in qvevri, so it is veering off-topic. I always like to have a few bottles of that lying around to drink when the mood take me.

With these wines more than others, I’d like to stress that when I say “good”, “better” or “worse”, I mean very much “in my opinion”.

There is a lot to be said on these wines, and indeed I already have written a lot on my blog - about Georgia and qvevri wines, rather than wine in clay more generally. There is quite a mix of posts - specific wines, producers and general stuff - but hare are the ones I tagged with “qvevri”

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And I’m sure you wouldn’t mind me saying, but a prior chance meeting with you, Steve, tipped me off for my subsequent visit, Cheers for that, eternally grateful etc.

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For what it’s worth, I was not very impressed with this one. I found it lifeless and bland. But as I said in my longer post above, I believe qvevri and bottle variation can be very important. And also personal taste - particularly with these wines that we do not have so much of a tasting tradition for. I do however agree that it would work for people “who don’t like too much funk in their wines.”

I think generally speaking, I prefer my Georgian orange wines to be the “tannic monsters” that result from traditional Kakhetian wine-making - 100% of skins and stalks, pushing-down, and long maceration times. But I think that might be mainly because most of my wines are more normal European-style, and I like the contrast.

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Took this photo at a Bodega just outside Montevideo, Uruguay. They were just starting to experiment with the amphora alongside some 100 year old larger storage containers.

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I love the wines of Sicilian winery COS (http://www.cosvittoria.it/en/). They are biodynamic and use amphora to age several of their wines.

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Searching the list atm the only amphora wine seems to this South African

I notice it’s also natural and cloudy. Amphora wine needn’t be that way. Just saying.

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Oooh, their Frappato is great!

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