Wine aged in clay, or amphora, has grown in popularity in recent years. But this technique is far from new. In fact, the practice originated in what is now modern-day Georgia, around 6,000 years ago.
Clay pots have long been used in other Old-World regions. For example, in Alentejo, Portugal, it’s believed that amphorae, or talhas as they’re known in the country, have been used for more than 2,000 years. However, Dr. Patrick McGovern, science director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, thinks the practice in Portugal may date back 1,000 years earlier than historians previously believed.
Amphorae have been experiencing a renaissance across the globe and can now be seen in places like the United States and Australia.
Clay can be thought of as a middle ground between steel and oak. Stainless steel allows for an oxygen-free environment and doesn’t impart any flavors into the wine. Oak, on the other hand, allows for ample oxygen to reach the juice, and the wood’s tannins can also affect the aromas and flavors of the wine.
Like oak, clay is porous, so it does allow for some oxygen giving the wine a deep and rich texture, but like steel it’s a neutral material that won’t impart any additional flavors.