Amphora Wine is a wine fermented with indigenous yeasts from red and white grape varieties in an amphora with fermentation on skins. It is a fermentation method that dates back to Roman times, where records show fermentation would be carried out off skins in an Amphora (Doliae was the name of the vessel for fermentation and Amphorae for storage).
However, there are no written records that indicate dates from which time fermentation on skins started, which is the traditional form of winemaking known today.
In more remote times, fermentation was only done using the off skins method, giving origin to lighter wines. Today, with the fermentation on skins, the maceration of the skins and must has originated the style of amphora wine currently known, which is more structured, with orange colour in the case of whites, and more concentrated in colour and tannins in the reds. The best known Portuguese amphora wine comes from the Alentejo region, but there are records that indicate this technique was also widely used in the Algarve.
An Amphora Wine is a wine in which the entire fermentation on skins, fermentation and ageing process is carried out traditionally in a clay amphora, crushing grapes with or without stems and fermentation with indigenous yeasts. There may be small differences in the production process and amphora ageing depending on the region.
After fermentation, the amphora wine can be drunk directly from the amphora or it can be transferred to another amphora and then bottled. It was usually on Saint Martin's Day that the amphorae were opened and the current vintage wine was tasted.
In fact, a wine fermented in an amphora and then transferred to a vat or barrel does not have the same traditional fermentation and ageing process.
Amphora wine is a wine produced with white and red grapes, with or without destemming of the grapes, in which the crushing and fermentation of the grapes is done in clay amphorae (a type of container). The second fermentation, malolactic fermentation, which is normally only performed in red wines, is also performed in white wines for this type of winemaking process.
After malolactic fermentation, the wine and the masses remain in the amphorae, normally the wine is removed through a hole in the bottom of the amphora (Doliae). As there are several layers of lees, seeds, skins, stems (fermentation masses), these act as a natural filter.
The wine may then be drunk directly from that amphora or transferred to another amphora to ensure that the lees no longer come into contact with the fermenting masses, and bottled.
Buying amphora wine usually means opting for a Portuguese amphora wine from the Alentejo, where this technique is more widely used. A good way to get to know amphora wine is to try our Alentejo amphora wine from Fitapreta, available in our online shop.