Making wine in terracotta jars

Making wine in terracotta jars

Making wine in terracotta jars

Making wine in baked clay containers was widely practised in ancient times, and some 20 years ago Josko Gravner, an innovative Friulian winemaker, started to use terracotta vessels for grape fermentation, based on observations he had made in Georgia. From 2001 onwards, he has used huge, bees’ wax-lined giare (amphorae – singular “giara”) made in Georgia and buried in the ground to make and age wine.

Jump forward to just a few years ago, and we find Leonardo Parisi of Terracotta Artenova in Impruneta, Tuscany, creating hand-made terracotta jars with stainless steel caps specifically for wine production. His giare are now the most popular containers in use for wine-making world-wide, with wineries not just throughout Europe but also in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

terracotta giare for wine making
terracotta giare for wine making

Terracotta jars offer unusual and perhaps beneficial properties for vinification. They neutralise acidity, allow oxygen exchange and, especially when buried in the ground, provide additional insulation, in comparison with stainless steel tanks and wooden barriques.  Experience has shown that two tons of grapes will ferment for 30 to 35 days with peak temperatures around 20° to 22°C in terracotta vessels, while the same two tons of grapes in non-temperature-controlled wood or steel will finish fermenting in 10 or 11 days, with a maximum temperature of 30°C. The lower temperatures for wines made in terracotta can create brighter and fresher wines. Jars made of terracotta allow excellent oxygenation, which is very good for red wines since it is essential for the processes of condensation and polymerisation of tannins.

terracotta vessel wine

Terracotta Artenova provide lists of customers who use their terracotta jars for wine making. A considerable number of them are located in Tuscany so that during your visit here you will be able to look for their wines to try or even to visit their wineries. As of now, the characteristics of terracotta vinified wines, both white and red, have not yet “stabilised”. There is a tremendous range of taste and texture in these wines which makes them extremely interesting to try. Some are very similar to barrel- and tank-fermented wines made from the same grapes and from the same area, while others – often sold as “natural” wines – are dramatically different. Taste a few – you will definitely be surprised, usually pleasantly!

More about Terracotta Artenova and the wines made in their terracotta jars.

Anna Maria Baldini

About Anna Maria Baldini

Anna Maria is a frequent contributor to web content on life in Tuscany. She researches all aspects of Tuscan life, with emphasis on history, art, architecture and the culture of the people of this beautiful region of Italy.