Last week while visiting Mendoza we were told about the latest fad in the wine ageing process – the use of amphora, or clay pots, for fermentation rather than oak barrels.
Not a new trend at all, amphora were used in ancient times for wine fermentation and storage, with the fine pores of the clay allowing the wine to “breathe”, just like oak does, but with different resulting flavours and profiles. The pores of the clay accelerate the ageing process with more oxygen exposure.
While oak barrels can become contaminated over time, no such problems arise with clay pots. The flavours of the wines tend to be cleaner and with more minerality, dependant on the type and grain of clay used. As a geologist I found this fascinating; while soil has always had an effect on the flavour of wine, direct contact with clay can only mean geology becomes very important! At Lagarde our tour guide showed us their experimental clay pot area, where they are trying out the method to see what results they get. Italy, France, and the US are also on board, with various vineyards performing their own experiments with clay. Very cool stuff!