Amphorae, thousand-year-old containers to enhance wine

For millennia, amphorae have been used for winemaking. These unglazed clay containers have survived the centuries and are still used by some winemakers to produce unique wines. Amphorae allow for gentle fermentation and interaction with ambient air, giving rise to wines with earthy and mineral aromas, as well as a complex and rich texture.

The origin of the amphora

Amphorae have a long history dating back to ancient times. The first models date back to the 3rd millennium BC and were discovered in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Spain. These fired clay containers were used to store and transport a variety of products, including wine. The first evidence of amphorae being used for winemaking was found in Greece, where they were used as early as the 7th century BC.

Over the centuries, the use of amphorae for winemaking spread throughout the Mediterranean, particularly in the wine regions of Greece and Italy. The Romans also adopted this practice and began exporting wines stored in amphorae throughout Europe.

In France, the use of amphorae for winemaking arrived with the Romans, who introduced this practice in the wine regions of southern France, including Provence. In Bordeaux, amphorae were used for winemaking as early as the Gallo-Roman period, over 2000 years ago.

Their use then declined in Europe, as other winemaking and storage methods, such as oak barrels, became more popular. However, the use of amphorae for winemaking has experienced a resurgence in recent decades, particularly in the most innovative wine regions, such as Bordeaux.

Illustration of ancient amphorae used to serve wine.

Barrel or Amphorae ?

When it comes to choosing between barrels and amphoras, it largely depends on each producer’s preferences and the style of wine they want to achieve. Wooden barrels can impart notes of vanilla, spices, or toasted wood, which can be ideal for powerful red wines or rich and complex white wines. However, it is important to note that barrels can also mask the natural fruity aromas of the wine.

Clay amphoras, on the other hand, have a more subtle impact on the taste of wine. They allow for delicate interaction with the ambient air, resulting in gentle fermentation and the expression of natural grape characteristics. This winemaking method is ideal for light and elegant red and white wines that showcase the finesse and complexity of fruity aromas. It should also be noted that wines aged in amphoras can have a rougher texture and less smoothness than those aged in barrels.

Ultimately, the choice between barrel and amphora depends on the style of wine one wants to achieve. If you prefer subtly aged fruity and light wines, then amphoras could be the ideal choice. If you’re looking for more powerful and aroma-rich wines with woody and spicy notes, then wooden barrels may be more suitable. It is important to taste different types of wines to discover what suits your personal preferences best.

The amphorae and their relationship with the Bordeaux region

Bordeaux is a world-renowned wine region for the quality of its wines. Many Bordeaux wine producers use amphorae to produce unique and complex wines. Classified grand cru chateaux such as Château Palmer and Château Haut-Brion were pioneers in the use of amphorae to produce exceptional wines. The region is known for its clay-limestone soils and the presence of many waterways, which creates a microclimate favorable to vine growing. Bordeaux wines are known for their elegance, aromatic richness, and aging potential. The use of amphorae in winemaking allows for the full expression of the Bordeaux terroir and the production of highly complex wines.

In summary, the use of amphoras has become a widespread practice in the Bordeaux region, allowing for the production of unique and complex wines. If you are in the region, don’t miss the opportunity to discover these ancestral techniques by visiting the cellars, chateaux, and wineries that use amphoras in their winemaking process. You will be able to experience an unforgettable taste experience by tasting wines with mineral and earthy aromas that testify to the richness of the Bordeaux terroir.

Don’t wait any longer to book your wine tour in Bordeaux at https://www.wine-cab.com/our-classic-tours/ and discover the secrets of the wines made thanks to tastings directly from the amphora or the barrel ! Whether you are a wine enthusiast or just curious, you won’t be disappointed by this unique experience that will allow you to discover the richness and diversity of Bordeaux wines.