Italy’s Amphora Wines: Back to the Future

Searching for the best way to make pure, terroir-driven wines, a few brave producers in Italy have traded in their temperature-controlled stainless steel fermenting tanks and wooden vats for clay amphorae. For thousands of years, terracotta containers – called by various names in Italian including anfore, orci and giare – were the only option available to early winemakers when they transformed grape juice into wine. Originating in the Caucasus in Georgia – the area credited as the birthplace of wine some 6,000 years ago – these large ceramic jars are still used in the region today.

© Paolo Tenti | Gravner cellar

Due to politics (it was part of the Soviet Union until 1991) and years of civil unrest, Georgia’s amphora wines remained virtually unknown to the rest of the world until the turn of the new century, when Italian winemaker Josko Gravner visited the area and brought some of clay vessels, known as qvevri back to Italy.

© Paolo Tenti | Mateja and Josko Gravner

Today a small but growing number of producers from Italy and around the world have adopted amphorae of varying sizes and origins. For most converts, amphorae are the natural progression of a holistic approach to winemaking that includes eschewing harsh chemicals in the vineyards and a non-interventionist approach in the cellars. Winemakers who have switched to amphorae say the vessels allow them to produce the purest expression of their grapes and vineyard areas.

From beguiling honeyed whites to earthy reds boasting radiant fruit purity, you’ll never forget a wine vinified in amphorae.

Read the article: Italy’s Amphora Wines: Back to the Future

COS: A Sicilian Success Story

A young trio who started making wine during a long summer break, spurred a viticultural renaissance in southeastern Sicily. Kerin O’Keefe reports.

© Paolo Tenti | Giusto Occhipinti
© Paolo Tenti | Giusto Occhipinti

Hanging around waiting for the university term to commence in 1980, friends Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Cirino Strano came up with an unusual project to fill their vacation: using a small vineyard and abandoned cellars owned by Cilia’s father on the island of Sicily, they decided to resurrect a local winemaking tradition.

At the time, they had no idea they were embarking on an adventure that would not only change their lives, but also the destiny of an entire denomination.

Read the article: COS: A Sicilian Success Story